Every problem in the place of origin, rhythm and frequency of heartbeats can cause arrhythmias. Most arrhythmias are transients and do not cause any harm. They might be provoked by physical activity or some emotions, causing your heart to skip or add a beat. Some other types of arrhythmias may be a life threat and must be taken very seriously.
Statistics reveal that some 2 millions of Americans live with the atrial fibrillation and every year about 250.000 of deaths are caused by arrhythmias.
Arrhythmias are divided into two groups, according to the place of the origin. If they occurred in upper chambers of the heart (atriums) they are known as supraventricular arrhythmias. Ventricular arrhythmias appeared in two lower chambers of the heart, called ventricles.
Another way to define arrhythmias is by the speed of the heartbeat, so we can define very slow, uncoordinated fast arrhythmias and also very fast arrhythmias. Bradycardia is the heart rate much slower than normal. When the heart is bradycardic, it beats less than 60 times in a minute. Fibrillation is a term that describes fast and uncoordinated heartbeats, and tachycardia is the definition of the heartbeat faster than 100 beats per minute.
So, we have supraventricular arrhythmias, and it can be an atrial fibrillation. This type of arrhythmia is a serious condition, because the atria beat 400 to 600 times per minute, and ventricles follow the rapid heartbeat by 170 to 200 times in a minute, too. Many heart problems might be the cause of atrial fibrillation, and the condition is permanent.
Sustained ventricular tachycardia is the most serious type of all arrhythmias. Ventricles beat 100 times in a minute and the only way to stop them is to apply some electrical conversion or use some drugs. It can also progress further, to ventricular fibrillation, when the heart could completely fail to pump the blood.
How to Recognize Arrhythmia
The most common symptoms of arrhythmia are: heart palpitations, pain in the chest, shortness of breath, light-headedness, tiredness and unconsciousness. There is a difference between the symptoms of bradycardia and tachycardia. People experiencing bradycardia usually complain about the tiredness, dizziness and shortness of breath. Tachycardia, however, causes: dizziness, fainting, sweating, shortness of breath, weakness, strong pulse in the neck and racing heart in the chest.
What Causes Arrhythmia
Heart diseases are the most common causes of arrhythmia. There is also the possibility of the congenital arrhythmias, when people are born with this medical problem. Sometimes, it could be the overuse of caffeine or alcohol, excessive smoking or the stress, what’s causing arrhythmias. Hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis, as well as some OTC cold and cough drugs might also cause arrhythmias.
How to Treat Arrhythmia
In some cases the treatment is not necessary, and doctors recommend limitation of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants. Also, some relaxation techniques to decrease the stress are more than welcomed.
When arrhythmias need to be treated, doctors might prescribe medications, or recommend cardioversion, artificial pacemaker or automatic implantable defibrillator.