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.
Have you or a loved one ever experienced an irregular heart rhythm? If so, you know how frightening it can be—especially if you don’t know what’s causing it, or if it’s a sign of something serious or life-threatening. Irregular heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, occur when the heart’s electrical signals are abnormal—making it beat too fast, too slow, or in an uncoordinated manner. There are numerous types of arrhythmias. Some resolve on their own, while others need treatment. This short film addresses the different types of arrhythmias, including, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), which affects around 1.7 million people in the United States. Watch this short film to learn more about these arrhythmias, diagnosis, and treatment options.
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
- Your doctor can run tests to find out if you have an arrhythmia.
- Your doctor may recommend screening tests based on your risk factors, such as age or family history.
- An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is the main test for detecting arrhythmia.
- An EKG records the heart’s electrical activity. Your doctor may do the test while you are at rest or may do a stress test, which records the heart’s activity when it is working hard. Your doctor may also give you a portable monitor to wear for a day or several days if no arrhythmia was detected during testing in the clinic.
- Holter or event monitor to record your heart’s electrical activity over long periods of time while you do your normal activities.
- Implantable loop recorder to detect abnormal heart rhythms. It is placed under the skin and continuously records your heart’s electrical activity.
- The recorder can transmit data to the doctor’s office to help with monitoring. An implantable loop recorder helps doctors figure out why a person may be having palpitations or fainting spells, especially if these symptoms do not happen very often.
- Stress test or exercise stress test to detect arrhythmias that happen while the heart is working hard and beating fast. If you cannot exercise, you may be given medicine to make your heart work hard and beat fast.