Also called: Irregular heartbeat

An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat. It means that your heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or with an irregular pattern. When the heart beats faster than normal, it is called tachycardia. When the heart beats too slowly, it is called bradycardia. The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which causes an irregular and fast heart beat.

Many factors can affect your heart's rhythm, such as having had a heart attack, smoking, congenital heart defects, and stress. Some substances or medicines may also cause arrhythmias.

Symptoms of arrhythmias include

  • Fast or slow heart beat
  • Skipping beats
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

Your doctor can run tests to find out if you have an arrhythmia. Treatment to restore a normal heart rhythm may include medicines, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker, or sometimes surgery.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Symptoms of Arrhythmia

The following features are indicative of Arrhythmia:
  • palpitations
  • irregular heartbeat
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • sweating
  • fainting
It is possible that Arrhythmia shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Arrhythmia

The following are the most common causes of Arrhythmia:
  • smoking
  • use of heavy alcohol
  • consumption of too much caffeine
  • heart attack
  • congenital heart defects
  • heart electrical signals may be blocked or slowed

Other Causes of Arrhythmia

The following are the less common causes of Arrhythmia:
  • strong emotional stress

Risk Factors for Arrhythmia

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Arrhythmia:
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart attack
  • heart failure
  • congenital heart defects
  • narrowed heart valves
  • overactive or underactive thyroid gland
  • infections
  • sleep apnea

Prevention of Arrhythmia

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Arrhythmia. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • avoid smoking
  • healthy diet intake
  • intake low sodium diet
  • do yoga
  • do meditation
  • avoid alcohol consumption

Occurrence of Arrhythmia

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Arrhythmia cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Arrhythmia can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Arrhythmia can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Arrhythmia

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Arrhythmia:
  • Electrocardiogram: To detect and record the heart's electrical activity
  • Holter monitor: To record the heart's electrical signals for a full 24- or 48-hour period
  • Event monitor: To record the heart's electrical activity at certain times
  • Blood test: To check the level of substances in the blood
  • Chest x ray: To view the pictures of the structures in the chest
  • Echocardiography: To identify areas of poor blood flow to the heart and to provide the information about the size and shape of the heart
  • Electrophysiology study: To assess serious arrhythmias
  • Tilt table testing: To find the cause of fainting spells
  • Coronary angiography: To view the inside of the coronary arteries
  • Implantable loop recorder: To detect the abnormal heart rhythms
  • Stress test: To diagnose when your heart is working hard and beating fast

Doctor for Diagnosis of Arrhythmia

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Arrhythmia:
  • Cardiologists
  • Pediatric cardiologists
  • Electrophysiologists

Complications of Arrhythmia if untreated

Yes, Arrhythmia causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Arrhythmia is left untreated:
  • stroke
  • heart failure
  • sudden cardiac death
  • may be life threatening

Procedures for Treatment of Arrhythmia

The following procedures are used to treat Arrhythmia:
  • Pacemakers: To treat abnormally slow heart rates
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator: To treat ventricular fibrillation
  • Cardioversion: To treat arrhythmias with a jolt of electricity to the heart
  • Transesophageal echocardiography: To make sure no blood clots are present in the atria
  • Catheter ablation: To treat some arrhythmias if medicines don't work
  • Maze surgery: To prevent the spread of disorganized electrical signals
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting: Improves blood flow to the heart muscle

Medicines for Arrhythmia

Below is the list of medicines used for Arrhythmia:

Self-care for Arrhythmia

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Arrhythmia:
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Maintain healthy weight: Lowers the risk of developing heart disease
  • Eating heart-healthy diet: Intake diet low in salt and solid fats to prevent heart arrhythmia
  • Quit smoking: Will keep your heart as healthy as possible

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Arrhythmia

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Arrhythmia:
  • Acupuncture: Reduces irregular heart rates in certain arrhythmias
  • Yoga and meditation: To reduce stress
  • Relaxation techniques: Helps to reduce stress

Patient Support for Treatment of Arrhythmia

The following actions may help Arrhythmia patients:
  • Support from friends and family: Helps in managing stress

Time for Treatment of Arrhythmia

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Arrhythmia to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • More than 1 year

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Arrhythmia.
Atrial Fibrillation
Pacemakers and Implantable Defibrillators

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