An arrhythmia is a common condition in which the heart beats too fast, too slow or erratically. When the heart doesn't beat properly, it can't pump blood effectively. Most of the time an arrhythmia is harmless. In some cases, however it can be a warning that immediate treatment is needed.
Most arrhythmia occur infrequently so they are hard to detect during an office visit. In many cases, physicians will prescribe a cardiac event monitor, for up to 30 days of monitoring. A report is sent to the physician for final interpretation.
The most common symptoms of arrhythmia include:
• Fainting or dizziness
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
Types of arrhythmias
Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) is the most common arrhythmia, impacting millions of Americans. A-Fib is an irregular heart beat, usually fast, and caused when the top chambers of the heart (the atria) quiver (fibrillate) erratically. A-FIB can have a significant negative impact on quality of life, causing heart palpitations, chronic fatigue and also increases the risk of stroke fivefold.
Bradycardia is a very slow heartbeat of under 60 times a minute. For some people, a slow heart rate does not cause any problems. For others, it can be a sign that the heart's natural pacemaker isn't working right or that the electrical pathways of the heart are disrupted. In severe forms of bradycardia, the heart beats so slowly that it doesn't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. This can cause symptoms and must be treated.
Tachycardia refers to an abnormally fast resting heart rate - usually at least 100 beats per minute. With tachycardia, the upper and/or lower chambers of the heart beat significantly faster. When the heart beats too rapidly, it pumps less efficiently and reduces blood flow to the rest of the body, including the heart. Some patients with tachycardia may have no symptoms or complications. Tachycardia significantly increases the risk of stroke, sudden cardiac arrest or death.