What Are the Symptoms of Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Have you ever felt a really fast heartbeat that seemed to come out of nowhere? That could be one sign of a condition called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT. You shouldn't be alarmed, but you might want to check in with your doctor.

The symptoms usually last an average of 10 to 15 minutes. You may feel a rapid heartbeat, or palpitations, for just a few seconds or for several hours, though that’s rare. They may appear several times a day or only once a year.

They usually come up suddenly and go away just as fast. It is not dangerous, but can be concerning if they happen often or last for long. It is treatable and does not lead to a heart attack.

Some people with this condition never have signs of it. But most of the time, you will feel at least some of the following:

Rapid Heartbeat

The term “tachycardia” comes from Latin and means “fast heartbeat.” And that’s the main symptom -- your heart feels like it’s racing really fast and out of nowhere.

A normal resting heart rate is usually between 60 and 100 beats a minute. Anything over 100 is considered tachycardia. SVT rates are usually about 150 to 250 beats a minute.

Some people feel an irregular heartbeat as well as a fast one.

Chest Pain

You may also feel tightness in your chest. Pain from SVT should go away quickly.

If it lasts more than a few minutes, call 911 or your doctor.

Breathing Problems

You may also find it hard to catch your breath, especially if you have coronary heart disease as well. That's when your arteries have a hard time supplying blood to your heart.

Feeling Tired

You may feel wrung out after your heart slows back down to normal. How long that lasts can vary with how long your heart was beating really fast.

Some people say the exhaustion stays with them several days if the rapid heartbeat lasted a long time.

Other Symptoms

When to Call a Doctor

The symptoms are usually not life-threatening. But you may not always be able to tell the difference between a harmless fluttering of your heart and something more serious. Call a doctor right away if:

  • You faint
  • The fast beating and other symptoms last longer than a few minutes
  • The symptoms occur often

If it happens too often and for too long, your heart muscle can weaken. Make sure you see a doctor before it gets to that point.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on August 15, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Cardiology: "2015 Guideline for the Management of Supraventricular Tachycardia."

University of Washington Medical Center: "Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) and Ablation."

Uptodate.com: "Supraventricular tachycardia in children: AV reentrant tachycardia (including WPW) and AV nodal reentrant tachycardia," "Patient information: Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) (The Basics)," "Atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia."

National Health Service U.K.: "Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) Symptoms."

American Heart Association: "Tachycardia/Fast Heart Rate."

Stanford Health Care: "Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)," "Vagal Maneuver."

American College of Cardiology: "Supraventricular Tachycardia Topic Overview."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "What Is Coronary Heart Disease?"

Wood, K. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, December 2008. 

UCSF Health: "Supraventricular Tachycardia."

University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital: "Supraventricular Tachycardia."

Kaiser Permanente: "Supraventricular Tachycardia."

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