What is an Irregular Heart Beat?
Irregular heartbeat or Arrhythmias is experienced by countless people around the world at some point during the course of their life. Our heart has a fixed rhythm, if it starts to beat too slow or too fast or out of rhythm, then that is known as Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat.
Quite often this occurs in perfectly healthy people and is harmless. Other times the abnormal beating of the heart cannot be taken so lightly. It can be extremely dangerous for those with existing heart disease and can become a threat if left undiagnosed.
There are three main types of Arrhythmias/irregular heartbeat:
Let us take a deeper look into each condition.
- Atrial Fibrillation:
In atrial fibrillation, the heart's upper chambers may beat up to four times the normal pace. It is caused by the haphazard signals sent from the heart’s electrical system. However, this condition is not life-threatening.
- Atrial Flutter:
This condition is somewhat similar to the Atrial fibrillation, but Instead of many confused signals, it is only one signal that moves around the atrium. It moves around up to 300 times per minute resulting in a very high heart rate. This can also cause an increased risk of a stroke.
- Sinus Tachycardia:
This is an example of the harmless side of an irregular heartbeat. It usually occurs due to circumstances like a fever, excitement or exercise. If there is no underlying cause such as anemia or hyperthyroidism, then this condition does not require any kind of treatment.
These were the conditions that occur in the upper chambers of the heart or the atria. Conditions occurring in the lower chambers or the ventricles include the following.
- Ventricular Tachycardia:
This is a very alarming condition. It is usually accompanied by other heart diseases although healthy people cannot be completely exempted from it. Ventricular tachycardia leads to a sharp and uncontrolled rise of the heart rate, therefore; it requires quick treatment and regular follow-ups.
- Ventricular Fibrillation:
Ventricular Fibrillation is the cause for the majority of heart-related deaths. The heart rate becomes rapid and unorderly causing the ventricles to spasm. This can be very fatal for a patient as the heart stops to function and oxygen supply is stopped throughout the body. Without treatment given in a timely manner, it is likely that a patient suffering from ventricular fibrillation will pass away.
- Heart Block:
This condition occurs when electric signals from the upper chambers cannot go through to the lower chambers. Consequently, the lower portion of the heart beats much slowly. This means that a lower amount of oxygen will travel through the body which can cause low energy, light-headedness and it is even possible that one might faint.
Other electrical disorders include:
- Premature contractions
- Long QT Syndrome
A stroke is essentially something that affects the brain however the trigger for this can come from an irregular heartbeat. An irregular heartbeat can form blood clots in the heart which can then travel to the brain after breaking off. When these clots reach the brain, they block veins, and that blockage will result in a stroke. A stroke is extremely life threating and can also leave the patient brain dead.
II. Heart Attack:
A heart attack happens when the arteries get so clogged that significantly lowers or completely stops the flow of blood to the heart. This, in turn, causes a lack of oxygen which then causes damage or kills the heart muscle. Like a stroke, a heart attack is also very fatal and requires immediate treatment.
- Heart Failure:
This happens when the heart cannot efficiently pump blood, therefore, cannot supply an adequate amount of oxygen to the body. If diagnosed and treated at the right time the patient’s condition can be stopped from detartrating.
Irregular Heartbeat Causes
An irregular heartbeat can be caused by numerous factors, for example:
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease/Blocked arteries
- Drug abuse
- Alcoholism or excessive use of caffeine
- Overactive or underactive thyroid gland
- Heart attack
- Change in the structure of the heart
- An unhealthy diet that is rich in cholesterol and fat
Overall, you can easily avoid this disease if you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Irregular Heartbeat symptoms
Irregular heartbeat symptoms include:
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Dizziness/ lightheadedness.
- Paleness/ loss of color.
- Irregular palpitations.
- Heartbeat too fast (pounding) or too slow (fluttering).
However, note that not all of these symptoms appear in patients suffering from the conditions. It is common for only some or only minor symptoms to appear. It should also be noted that on some occasions no symptoms appear at all. Hence, diagnosing a patient becomes difficult. It is ideal to get regular check-ups so that any oddity can be noticed as soon as possible.
Due to the nature of this condition, most of the treatments are strictly medical. The treatments include:
A doctor can prescribe you medication to control the condition. You could also be prescribed medication that deals with the underlying disease that causes an irregular heartbeat.
This is a small device that is placed in your chest. It sends out electric signals to assist your heart and makes it beat normally. This device comes equipped with its own battery.
III. Catheter Ablation.
This is a surgical procedure designed to destroy the diseased tissue with great precision. The absence of the diseased tissue brings the heart back to its normal state.
An ICD1 is a device that monitors the heart rate and produces a shock when needed. It is similar to the pacemaker.
- Heart.org - Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)