Arrhythmia refers to a heartbeat rhythm that deviates from the normal sinus rhythm. This dysfunction may arise from a problem in the heart’s conduction system. It can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slowly or irregularly.
- chest pain
- shortness of breathable
Causes of Arrhythmia
- caffeine and other stimulants
- particular drugs
Arrhythmias are generally categorized by their speed. Bradycardia is the slowing of the heart rate below 50 beats per minute. Tachycardia refers to the speeding up of heart rate to over 100 beats per minute. Fibrillation refers to a rapid and uncoordinated heart beat. Arrhythmias can be further subdivided, depending on which part of the heart they originate. Supraventricular arrhythmias begin in the atria and ventricular arrhythmias originate in the ventricles.
Types of Arrhythmia
Supraventricular tachycardia – This type of arrhythmia causes a rapid but regular heart beat of about 160 to 200 beats per minute. It can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Rubbing the neck, over the area where the carotid artery is located, then plunging the patient’s face in a cold water can restore normal heart rate. This is not recommended for people of 50 years of age.
Heart block – This occurs when the electrical signals between the atria and ventricles are blocked. This means that only certain parts of the heart receive nerve impulses in time, while other parts received them at a delayed time. This results in the upper parts and lower parts of the heart being paced differently.
Atrial Flutter – This arrhythmia results in a very high but regular heart beat of 240 to 360 beats per minute. Atrial flutter is always accompanied by heart block.
Atrial Fibrillation – Mostly occurs in older people. This affects the left and right atria of the heart. Each atria does not contract in unison, causing the atria to stop working altogether. Since the atria and the ventricles are no longer beating in unison, the normal rhythm of the heart is disrupted. If blood is not being pumped out of the atria it can form clots. The clots can then dislodge from the atria and find its way to arteries where it can cause a blockage, which may result in a stroke.
Ventricular fibrillation – This is one of the most lethal arrhythmias. The ventricle quivers instead of contracting. Ventricular pumping stops and this quickly results in death, unless medical attention is sought immediately. Treatment requires a defibrillator which passes an electrical shock to the heart via paddle shaped electrodes which are put in direct contact with the skin on the chest. Patients who are at a higher risk of experiencing ventricular fibrillation can get an automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD). These devices automatically monitor the heart and immediately send a shock to the heart as soon as a fibrillation is sensed.
There is a wide variety of arrhythmias that can occur. The causes all vary, depending on the heart’s conduction system, whether the heart is slowing down, or what part of the heart the arrhythmia is originating. Some arrhythmias are deadly unless treated immediately, others however, can last for just a few seconds or minutes without causing much damage.