Heart Rhythm Disorders
Arrhythmias arising in the ventricle are more likely to be found in people with more serious heart disease but may also be found in healthy individuals.
- Premature ventricular complex, or PVCs: This abnormal electrical impulse arises from the ventricle, causing the heart to beat earlier than expected. Usually, the heart returns to its normal rhythm right away.
- Ventricular tachycardia: Fast and usually regular impulses come from the ventricles and cause a very rapid heart rate. This is usually a life-threatening tachycardia and needs immediate medical attention and potentially treatment with an electrical shock or defibrillation.
- Ventricular fibrillation: Electrical impulses arise from the ventricles in a fast and disordered sequence. The resulting uncoordinated contractions cause the heart to lose its ability to beat and pump blood. The condition usually causes fainting and collapse, and is fatal if not treated immediately.
Arrhythmias can be frightening, but in many cases, especially in younger patients with normal underlying hearts, they are not life threatening and can be effectively treated with medications.
- Supraventricular arrhythmias are very common in middle-aged and elderly adults. The older you get, the more likely you are to experience an arrhythmia, especially atrial fibrillation.
- Many supraventricular arrhythmias are temporary and not serious, especially if no underlying heart disease is present. These arrhythmias are a response to normal activities or emotions.
- Even if an arrhythmia has a serious underlying cause, the arrhythmia itself may not be dangerous. The underlying problem can often be treated effectively.
Heart Rhythm Disorders Causes
Among individuals without known heart disease, arrhythmias are generally random, isolated occurrences that do not carry any significance. However, a discussion with a doctor is advised.
A variety of heart diseases cause arrhythmias. Heart disease can refer to patients with coronary artery disease, heart valve problems, heart failure, or disorders with heart conduction or high blood pressure. Remember, however, that having an arrhythmia does not necessarily mean that you have heart disease. Arrhythmias have many causes; sometimes the cause of an arrhythmia is never determined.
Sometimes, conditions other than heart disease may cause or aggravate arrhythmias. These conditions include the following:
- Infection or fever.
- Physical or emotional stress.
- Diseases such as anemia or thyroid disease.
- Drugs and other stimulants, such as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and certain over-the-counter and prescription medications.
- Certain arrhythmias can be inherited as well.
Symptoms of a Heart Rhythm Disorders
Many arrhythmias cause no or minimal symptoms. Other people, however, can actually feel the arrhythmia when it happens.
Common symptoms include the following:
- Palpitations, feeling "skipped beats"
- Thumping or fluttering in the chest
- Sensation of the heart racing
In addition, some can experience the following:
- Feeling faint or tired
- Light-headedness or passing out (syncope)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort
On the other hand, people may feel many of the sensations described above and have no arrhythmias whatsoever. These may be due to anxiety, stress, or other causes besides an abnormal heartbeat.