Health > Mens > Arrhythmia/Rhythm Disorders
An arrhythmia is a change in the regular beat of the heart. The heart may seem to skip a beat, beat irregularly, beat very fast, or beat very slowly.
Does Having An Arrhythmia Mean That A Person Has Heart Disease?
Many times, there is no recognizable cause of an arrhythmia. Heart disease may cause arrhythmias. Other causes include:
Cough and cold medicines.
Are Arrhythmias Serious?
The vast majority of people with arrhythmias have nothing to fear, according to the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute (NHLBI). They do not need extensive exams or special treatments for their condition.
In some people, arrhythmia are associated with heart disease. In these cases, heart disease, not the arrhythmia, poses the greatest risk to the patient.
In a very small number of people with serious symptoms, arrhythmia themselves are dangerous. These arrhythmias require medical treatment to keep the heartbeat regular. For example, a few people have a very slow heartbeat (bradycardia), causing them to feel lightheaded or faint. NHLBI warns that if left untreated, the heart may stop beating and these people could die.
How Common Are Arrhythmias?
Arrhythmias occur commonly in middle-age adults. As people get older, they are more likely to experience an arrhythmia.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Arrhythmia?
Most people have felt their heart beat very fast, experienced a fluttering in their chest, or notice that their heart skipped a beat. Almost everyone has also felt dizzy, faint, or out of breath or had chest pains at one time of another. One of the most common arrhythmia is sinus arrhythmia, the change in heart rate that can occur normally when we take a breath. These experiences may cause anxiety, but for the majority of people, they are completely harmless, experts say.
You should not panic if you experience a few flutters or your heart races occasionally. But if you have questions about your heart rhythm or symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor.
How Does The Doctor Know That I Have Arrhythmia?
Sometimes an arrhythmia can be detected by listening to the heart with a stethoscope. However, the electrocardiogram is the most precise method for diagnosing the arrhythmia.
An arrhythmia may not occur at the time of the exam even though symptoms are present at other times. In such cases, tests will be done if necessary to find out whether an arrhythmia is causing the symptoms.
What Tests Can Be Done?
First the doctor will take a medical history and do a thorough physical exam. Then one or more tests may be used to check for an arrhythmia and to decide whether it is caused by heart disease.
How Are Arrhythmias Treated?
Many arrhythmias require no treatment whatsoever, according to NHLBI.
Serious arrhythmias are treated in several ways depending on what is causing the arrhythmia. Sometimes the heart disease is treated using one or more of the following treatments:
There are several kinds of drugs used to treat arrhythmias. One or more drugs may be used.
Drugs are carefully chosen because they can cause side effects. In some cases, they cause arrhythmias or make arrhythmias worse. For this reason, the benefits of the drug are carefully weighed against any risks associated with taking it. It is important not to change the dose or type of your medication unless you check with your doctor first.
If you are taking drugs for an arrhythmia, one of the following tests will probably be used to see whether treatment is working: a 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) while you are on drug therapy, an exercise ECG, or a special technique to see how easily the arrhythmia drugs may also be checked.
To quickly restore a heart to its normal rhythm, the doctor may apply an electrical shock to the chest wall. Called cardioversion, this treatment is most used in emergency situations. After cardioversion, drugs are usually prescribed to prevent the arrhythmia from recurring.
Automatic Implantable Defibrillators
These devices are used to correct serious ventricular arrhythmia that can lead to sudden death. The defibrillator is surgically placed inside the patient's chest. There, it monitors the heart's rhythm and quickly identifies serious arrhythmia. With an electrical shock, it immediately disrupts a deadly arrhythmia.
An artificial pacemaker can take charge of sending electrical signals to make the heart beat if the heart's natural pacemaker is not working properly or its electrical pathway is blocked. During a simple operation, this electrical device is placed under the skin. A lead extends from the device to the right side of the heart, where it is permanently anchored.
When an arrhythmia cannot be controlled by other treatment, doctors may perform surgery. After locating the heart tissue that is causing the arrhythmia, the tissue is altered or removed so that it will not produce the arrhythmia.
How Can Arrhythmias Be Prevented?
If heart disease is not causing the arrhythmia, the doctor may suggest that you avoid what is causing it. For example, if caffeine or alcohol is the cause, the doctor may ask you not to drink coffee, tea, colas, or alcoholic beverages.
Is Research On Arrhythmias Being Done?
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) supports basic research on normal and abnormal electrical activity in the heart to understand how arrhythmias develop. Clinical studies with patients aim to improve the diagnosis and management of different arrhythmias. These studies will someday lead to better diagnostic and treatment strategies.