What is Heart rhythm disorders?
Abnormal rhythm of the heartbeat due to irregularities in transmission of the electrical signals that normally control heart rate and rhythm is called heart rhythm disorders. It is also known as arrhythmias. With an arrhythmia, the heartbeats may be irregular or too slow (bradycardia), too rapid (tachycardia), or occur too early.
Arrhythmias also know as heart rhythm problems are experienced by more than 2 million people a year in the UK according to survey. Most people with an abnormal heart rhythm can lead a normal life if it is properly diagnosed.
The five main types of arrhythmia are:
Atrial fibrillation (AF) – this is the most common type, where the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal
Supraventricular tachycardia – episodes of abnormally fast heart rate at rest
bradycardia – the heart beats more slowly than normal
Heart block – the heart beats more slowly than normal and can cause people to collapse
Ventricular fibrillation – a rare, rapid and disorganised rhythm of heartbeats that rapidly leads to loss of consciousness and sudden death if not treated immediately
What are the causes of abnormal heart rhythms?
There are many of reasons why you may have a different heart rhythm. Some of the common reasons for getting abnormal heart rhythms are:
electrical impulses are coming from another part of the heart and not the sinus node.
electrical impulses are coming from the sinus node, but going to the lower chambers of the heart by the usual path there is an abnormality in blood chemical levels.
Some abnormal heart rhythms are inherited. If this is the case for your condition, your doctor may talk to you about having other family members tested. Although, this can be scary, it can also help them know if they need treatment now or in the future.
What are the symptoms of heart rhythm disorders:
Arrhythmias may not cause any signs or symptoms. In fact, your doctor might find you have an arrhythmia before you do, during a routine examination. Noticeable signs and symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have a serious problem, however.
Some common arrhythmia symptoms may include:
A fluttering in your chest
A racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
A slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
Shortness of breath
Lightheadedness or dizziness
Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
Treatments for heart rhythm disorders or arrhythmia
Treatment for heart rhythm disorders is only required if the condition is putting the patient at risk of a more serious arrhythmia or a complication, or if the symptoms are very severe.
Treatments for bradycardia
If bradycardia is caused by an underlying condition, that condition needs to be treated first. If no underlying problem is found, the doctor may advise implanting a pacemaker.
A pacemaker is a small device that is placed under the skin of the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. Pacemakers use electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal minimum rate.
Treatments for tachycardia
There are several different treatments for tachycardia:
Vagal maneuvers – certain movements that the patient can do themselves might stop some types of arrhythmia that start above the lower half of the heart.
Medications – these will not cure the patient, but are usually effective in reducing episodes of tachycardia and can help with proper electrical conduction of the heart.
Cardioversion – the doctor may use an electric shock or medication to reset the heart to its regular rhythm.
Ablation therapy – one or more catheters go through blood vessels into the inner heart. They are placed in areas of the heart that are thought to be the source of the arrhythmia and destroy small sections of those tissues.
ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) – the device is implanted near the left collarbone and monitors heart rhythm; if it detects an abnormally fast rhythm, it stimulates the heart to return to a normal rhythm.
Maze procedure – a series of surgical incisions are made in the heart. They then heal into scars and form blocks. These blocks guide the electrical impulses, helping the heart to beat efficiently.
Ventricular aneurysm surgery – sometimes, an aneurysm (bulge) in a blood vessel that leads to the heart causes an arrhythmia. If other treatments do not work, a surgeon may remove the aneurysm.
Coronary bypass surgery – arteries or veins from elsewhere in the patient’s body are grafted to the coronary arteries to bypass any regions that have become narrow, and improve the blood supply to the heart muscle (myocardium).