Arrhythmia refers to an irregular or abnormal heart rhythm, which can occur when the electrical signals that regulate the heartbeat are disrupted. The heart has its own electrical system, which controls the timing and rhythm of its contractions. In a healthy heart, this electrical system sends signals that cause the heart to beat regularly and efficiently.
However, various factors can disrupt this normal rhythm, causing the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Some common causes of arrhythmia include heart disease, high blood pressure, stress, and medications. Arrhythmias can also occur in people who have no underlying heart conditions.
Some arrhythmias are harmless and may not require treatment, while others can be serious and even life-threatening.
Assessment: Assessment for arrhythmia involves a physical exam and diagnostic tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG). Other tests that may be used to assess arrhythmia include an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create an image of the heart, and a Holter monitor, which records the heart’s activity for a period of time.
ECG is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. It can help diagnose different types of arrhythmia and monitor the heart’s rhythm.
Symptoms: The symptoms of arrhythmia can range from mild to severe and depend on the type of arrhythmia. Common symptoms include palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and fainting.
First Aid: If you experience any arrhythmia symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. If you begin to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting, call 911 or your local emergency medical services.
Treatment: Treatment for arrhythmia depends on the type, severity, and underlying cause. Other arrhythmias may require an implantable device such as a pacemaker or defibrillator, as well as ablation therapy, which involves destroying the abnormal electrical pathways in the heart. In some cases, a procedure may be needed to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.
Medication: There are several types of medications used to treat arrhythmia, including beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and anti-arrhythmic drugs. Beta-blockers are medications that slow down the heart rate and reduce the risk of arrhythmias. Calcium channel blockers are used to relax the blood vessels and reduce the risk of blood clots. Anti-arrhythmic drugs are used to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.