How is SVT diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose
SVT by asking you questions about your health and symptoms, doing a physical
exam, and perhaps giving you tests. Your doctor:
- Will ask if anything triggers the fast heart
rate, how long it lasts, if it starts and stops suddenly, and if the beats are
regular or irregular.
- May do a test called an
electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG). This test measures the
heart's electrical activity and can record SVT episodes.
If you do not have an episode of SVT while you're at the
doctor's office, your doctor probably will ask you to wear a portable electrocardiogram (EKG), also called an ambulatory electrocardiogram. When
you have an episode, the device will record it.
Your doctor also
may do tests to find the cause of the SVT. These may include blood tests, a
X-ray, and an
echocardiogram, which shows the heart in motion.
How is it treated?
Some SVTs don't cause
symptoms, and you may not need treatment. If you do have symptoms, your doctor
probably will recommend treatment.
To treat sudden episodes of
SVT, your doctor may:
- Prescribe a medicine to take when the SVT
- Show you how you can slow your heart rate on your own. You
may be able to do this by coughing, gagging, or putting your face in ice-cold
water. These are called vagal maneuvers.
If these treatments don't work, you may have to go to your
doctor's office or the emergency room. You may get a fast-acting medicine such
as adenosine or verapamil. If the SVT is serious, you may have
electrical cardioversion, which uses an electrical
current to reset the heart rhythm.
If you often have episodes of
SVT, you may need to:
- Take medicine every day to prevent the
episodes or slow your heart rate.
- Try catheter ablation. This
procedure destroys a tiny part of the heart that causes the problem.
What can you do at home to prevent SVT?
You can try some things at home to help prevent SVT by avoiding the things that trigger it. Examples of things you can try:
- Limit or do not drink alcohol.
- Avoid over-the-counter decongestants, herbal remedies, diet
pills, and "pep" pills.
- Don't use illegal drugs, such as cocaine,
ecstasy, or methamphetamine.
To find your triggers, keep a diary of your heart rate and
your symptoms. You might find, for example, that smoking or alcohol causes
your SVT episodes.
For most people, moderate amounts of caffeine do not trigger SVT. So most people do not have to avoid chocolate or caffeinated coffee, tea, or soft drinks.