Arrhythmia (Irregular Heart Beat)


An arrhythmia results whenever the body's normal rate or patterns of heart beats change for reasons other than the body's normal demand. The resulting irregular heart beat is known as an arrhythmia.


What causes an arrhythmia?

The cause of some arrhythmias are unknown. Most arrhythmias arise from underlying heart disease of some form. However, in addition to irregularities of the heart beat, arrhythmias may result from:

  1. Excessive use of caffeine, cigarettes, or alcohol.
  2. Anemia, fever, or infection
  3. Pulmonary (lung) or thyroid disease
  4. Excessive stress
  5. A disturbance in the body's levels of potassium, magnesium, or calcium (electrolytes).
  6. The use of certain drugs, including some antidepressants, nasal decongestants, and asthma medicines.


What are symptoms of arrhythmia?

  1. Dizziness, light-headedness, and syncope (passing out)
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. A feeling of fullness in chest (tightness)
  4. Nausea
  5. Palpitations (rapid or irregular heart beats)
  6. An awareness of irregular heartbeats
  7. Some patients experience no symptoms!


Treatment for arrhythmias

  1. Stop smoking or using any nicotine products.
  2. Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine sources are: Coffee, tea, soft drinks (pop), chocolate, etc.
  3. Correct electrolyte imbalances.
  4. Treat underlying diseases such as thyroid disease, lung disease, infections.
  5. Medications and/or device implantation.
  6. EP Study--some patients require an electrophysiology study to help determine the best means of treatment.


Antiarrhythmic Medicine

Some patients will require medication for their arrhythmias while others will not.

  1. Do not stop taking your medicines once you begin feeling better
  2. Do not take more or less than the prescribed dose
  3. When possible, take your medicine with meals and pretty much the same time each day.
  4. If you forget to take your medicines you may take it within 2-3 hours of your usual time but don't double up.
  5. If you experience any unusual reactions, consult your doctor immediately.


How serious is an arrhythmia?

Not all arrhythmias are serious but some can be life threatening. Most arrhythmias are more of a nuisance than anything. Check with your physician about what type arrhythmia you have and how it should be controlled.


Types of arrhythmias

Most common types of arrhythmias are:

  1. Bradycardia (slow heart beat)
  2. Tachycardia (fast heart beat)
  3. Atrial Fibrillation
  4. Atrial Flutter
  5. SVT (supraventricular tachycardia)
  6. PVC (premature ventricular contraction)
  7. V. Tach (ventricular tachycardia)
  8. V. Fib (ventricular fibrillation)
  9. Heart Block
            a. 1st degree heart block

            b. 2nd degree heart block

            c. 3rd degree heart block (complete heart block)


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