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arrhythmia treatment

Cardiac Arrhythmia – Causes, Types and Treatment

Cardiac arrhythmia is very frequently caused by a damaged or weakened heart. Every individual suffering from this condition may experience somewhat different symptoms, which sometimes remain harmless for years. Nevertheless, if irregular heartbeat is not treated properly, it can evolve further and cause life-threatening conditions.

Due to the nature of this delicate condition, any arrhythmia treatment should go along with a heart-healthy lifestyle to eliminate or control the uneven heartbeat pattern.

Causes and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrhythmia

Cardiac arrhythmia is noticeable through non-serious signs and symptoms including:

  • Tachycardia or fast heartbeat
  • Bradycardia or slow heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness

If you experience these symptoms in non-stressful and sudden moments you should seek medical care. The most typical symptoms show slightly irregular heartbeat, but some more serious forms of heart arrhythmia can lead to reduced blood output. Regular heartbeat is essential for proper body functions, because without even pumping, blood pressure plummets and then cuts off blood supply abruptly from the organs. From this perspective there is one type of cardiac arrhythmia that can be deadly due to rapid, erratic electrical impulses: Ventricular fibrillation.

Some common risk factors that might lead to heart arrhythmia are:

  • Stress
  • Drug abuse
  • Certain medications
  • Alcohol or caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Dietary supplements
  • Air pollution
  • Electrical shock

Types of Arrhythmia

The medical classification of arrhythmia depends on where the condition originates from (whether from the atria or in the ventricles) and on the speed of the heart rate.

  • Tachycardia – fast heartbeat, usually over 100 beats per minute while resting
  • Bradycardia – slow heartbeat, usually less than 60 beats per minute while resting
  • Atrial fibrillation– fast and chaotic beating usually developed in advanced age, especially those are at risk who suffer from high blood pressure.
  • Atrial flutter – similar to atrial fibrillation but with implies more rhythmic electrical impulses.
  • SVT or SupraVentricular Tachycardia – refers to forms of arrhythmia that originate from above the ventricles.
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – an extra electrical pathway that leads to short circuits and rapid irregular heartbeats.
  • VT or Ventricular Tachycardia – caused by abnormal electrical impulses starting in the ventricles
  • Ventricular Fibrillation – This life threatening heart condition is often linked to some other forms of heart disease. Arrhythmia treatment of this type requires a defibrillator.
  • Long QT syndrome – carries an increased risk of fast heartbeats leading to fainting or sudden death.
  • Sick sinus – can be caused by scarring near the sinus node that slows and disrupts the impulses.
  • Conduction block – can occur along the pathways to the ventricles, and can cause skipped beats or bradycardia.

As for the complication factors, heart arrhythmia may lead to coronary artery disease, general heart problems, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, diabetes. Some serious risks include stroke and heart failure.

Arrhythmia Treatment

Doctors use tests for those conditions that usually trigger arrhythmia. They also perform heart-monitoring tests, including:

  • ECG or Electrocardiogram – which measures the timing and duration of the electrical phases in the heartbeat.
  • Holter monitor – a portable ECG device that records heart activity during a normal 24 hour routine.
  • Echocardiogram – uses mechanical waves to produce images of the heart.
  • Stress test – heart activity is monitored while exercising.

Arrhythmia treatment is necessary only if the symptoms are severe putting the patient at great risk.

  • Bradycardias are usually treated with pacemakers.
  • Tachycardia treatments include:
  • Vagal maneuvers
  • Blood-thinning drugs
  • Cardioversion or electrical shock
  • Ablation therapy
  • Implantable cardioverter-defribrillator (ICD) can also be recommended if the patient is at a higher risk.

Among the surgical treatments we find:

  • Maze procedure
  • Coronary bypass surgery

Some lifestyles changes can also help prevent arrhythmia from developing into a more serious disease.

  • Quit smoking
  • Increase physical activity
  • Eat heart-healthy food
  • Cut caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Reduce stress in life
  • Avoid stimulant medication