What is Arrhythmia?
Cardiac arrhythmia, also known as cardiac dysrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, is a group of conditions in which the heartbeat is irregular, too fast, or too slow. A heartbeat that is too fast - above 100 beats per minute in adults - is called tachycardia and a heartbeat that is too slow - below 60 beats per minute - is called bradycardia. --> When symptoms are present these may include palpitations or feeling a pause between heartbeats. More seriously there may be lightheadedness, passing out, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Others may result in cardiac arrest.
There are four main types of arrhythmias: extra beats, supraventricular tachycardias, ventricular arrhythmias, and bradyarrhythmias. Extra beats include premature atrial contractions and premature ventricular contractions. Supraventricular tachycardias include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Ventricular arrhymias include ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. Arrhythmias may occur in children; however, the normal range for the heart rate is different and depends on age. A number of tests can help with diagnosis including an electrocardiogram (ECG) and holter monitor.
Most arrhythmias can be effectively treated. Treatments may include medications, medical procedures such as a pacemaker, and surgery. Medications for a fast heart rate may include beta blockers or agents that attempt to restore a normal heart rhythm such as procainamide. This later group may have more significant side effects especially if taken for a long period of time. Pacemakers are often used for slow heart rates. Those with an irregular heartbeat are often treated with blood thinners to reduce the risk of complications. Those who have severe symptoms from an arrhythmia may be treated emergently with a jolt of electricity in the form of cardioversion or defibrillation.
Arrhythmias affect millions of people. Arrhythmias may occur at any age but are more common among older people.