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Heart Disease Health Center

Heart Rhythm Disorders

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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.

When to Seek Medical Care for Your Heart Rhythm

Most people have noticed their heart racing, a fluttering in the chest, or a sensation that the heart skipped a beat. If this happens once, or infrequently, with no other symptoms, it is usually not serious. However, any questions or concerns should be discussed with a health care provider. The health care provider should also be notified if a recommended treatment does not alleviate the symptoms.

More serious symptoms should be evaluated immediately at the nearest hospital emergency department. These symptoms include:

  • Any unexplained shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness or feeling faint
  • Feeling that the heart is beating too slowly or too quickly
  • Chest pain with any of these symptoms

People experiencing these symptoms should not drive to the emergency department. They should call 9-1-1 for emergency medical transport.

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