Arrhythmia is the term used for an irregular heartbeat. It can also be called dysrhythmia. This condition can be caused by several different factors. Some of them include coronary artery disease, change in the heart muscle, heart attack, heart surgery or an imbalance in electrolytes in the blood. Although these can be common triggers of an arrhythmia, you can also have what is considered a healthy heart and still have an arrhythmia.
There are many different types of arrhythmias. Some can occur with a normal heart rate whereas others may be accompanied by a heart rate that is too fast or too slow. Heart arrhythmias and heart rates do not always go hand in hand with one another. In order to distinguish which type of heart arrhythmia you may have to undergo several tests. Some of the different tests used are echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, stress tests, cardiac catheterization, holter monitors and event monitors.
Some of the warning signs and symptoms of a heart arrhythmia may include the heart feeling as if it has skipped a beat or has a racing sensation. This is often referred to as having heart palpitations. You may also feel as if your heart is pounding. Other symptoms can include chest discomfort, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and fainting.
Once your arrhythmia has been diagnosed and the time of arrhythmia has been determined your doctor will decide if you have the time of arrhythmia that needs further treatment. There are types of arrhythmias that do not require treatment. Also the severity of your symptoms will help to determine what course of action should be taken as well. If your arrhythmia does require treatment this could include lifestyle changes, medications or surgery to repair the problem. Some of the lifestyle changes that you could face are quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, limit or discontinue use of caffeine, avoiding activities that cause your heart to race or feel different than normal and avoiding any stimulants that cause the heart to speed up, including cold and cough medications.
Sometimes there are arrhythmias that require further treatments besides lifestyle changes. In this event your doctor may prescribe medications that can control your heart rate. Medications such as anti-arrhythmic drugs, including beta-blockers and anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapies may be used.
If you have a type of heart arrhythmia, like atrial fibrillation, that is not controllable through the use of medications then you may have to undergo the procedure known as cardioversion. This procedure consists of using an anesthesia and having an electrical shock administered to your chest wall. This shock can synchronize your heart rate and may get your heart beating to a normal rhythm once again.
Other procedures that may be necessary include having a pace maker placed into the chest. It is a small device used to send electrical impulses to the heart. This is typically used in the event that your heart is beating too slowly. It is a battery operated computer and is designed to manage heart arrhythmias. An ICD is a device used mostly to treat two life-threatening heart rhythms known as ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. This device is constantly monitoring the heart rhythm and detects when it is too fast or abnormal. After detecting a fast or abnormal heart rhythm the ICD delivers energy to the heart to cause it to beat normally again. The ICD can be used in several different ways to aid in the functioning of the heart.
These are just a sample of the procedures used to remedy a heart arrhythmia. Just because you have an arrhythmia does not mean you will have to undergo any medical procedures. Your doctor will be able to decide depending on your type and severity of the arrhythmia what the best plan for your heart includes.
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