Your heart does its job by beating at a normal rate. Your heart contractions are caused by electrical signals, but when these signals are impaired or misfire your heartbeat becomes irregular.
An irregular heartbeat, called an arrhythmia, can have irritating symptoms and cause a dangerous health condition which must be treated.
Different Arrhythmia Types
Arrhythmia causes your heart to slow down, speed up or beat sporadically.
Furthermore, an arrhythmia may not produce any symptoms. Sometimes patients with an arrhythmia don’t discover it until a doctor monitors their heartbeat.
Different arrhythmia types include:
Sinus arrhythmia refers to a heartbeat which is either too fast or too slow. There are two types of sinus arrhythmia: sinus tachycardia and sinus bradycardia.
Sinus tachycardia is when your heart is beating too fast. A normal heart rate should fall in the range of 60 to 100 beats per minute. In some cases, a fast heartbeat is normal and benign, such as when you’re stressed or exercising.
Sinus tachycardia can also be a symptom of a dangerous heart condition. Sometimes it could mean your heart is working too hard and could lead to heart failure or a heart attack. Your doctor may prescribe beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers to make your symptoms subside.
An interesting fact: due to hormones released by your brain, your heart rate increases when you see someone you love.
Sinus bradycardia occurs when your heart rate dips below 60 beats per minute. For some people, a slow heartbeat is normal and doesn’t present any danger. Professional athletes and children sometimes sinus bradycardia and do not suffer from any symptoms or health problems.
One form of bradycardia which is common and benign is respiratory sinus arrhythmia, in which your heart rate is reactive to your breathing. This condition is common in healthy children and adults.
In dangerous cases, a slow heart rate won’t provide enough nutrients and oxygen to your body. Sinus bradycardia could be the symptom of a dangerous underlying condition like heart disease, infection and sleep apnea.
Doctors can treat sinus bradycardia with an implanted pacemaker.
Sometimes your heart has two beats right next to each other, which is where the “skipped beat” feeling comes from.
Normally a premature contraction is nothing to worry about and could be a side effect of too much stress or caffeine.
On the other hand, a premature contraction could be the sign of a heart condition or could initiate an irregular heartbeat.
Heartbeat fibrillation is when your heart quivers, which may interfere with blood flow. According to the American Heart Association, heart fibrillation is the most common form of dangerous arrhythmia and can put your risk of stroke at 5 times above normal.
Heart fibrillation can also lead to other types of heart conditions such as heart failure and blood clots.
Location Specific Arrhythmia
An irregular heartbeat doesn’t always happen to the entire heart. In fact, many forms of fibrillation and premature contractions happen in only one chamber of the heart.
Your heart has four chambers. The two chambers located at the top of the heart, are called atriums, and the bottom two chambers are called ventricles. Having an arrhythmia specific to one or more chambers of the heart can have different effects on blood flow and the heart’s ability to pump blood.
Arrhythmia Treatment and Diagnosis
The only practical way to diagnose arrhythmia is with the help of a doctor.
Not all arrhythmias show symptoms, but those which may present themselves are:
- Chest pain
- Fluttering or skipping sensation in the heart
- Shortness of breath
When it comes to diagnosing a heart arrhythmia, doctors have a few tools they use to monitor your heart rate.
This machine monitors your heart beat by sensing the electrical signals of your body. It uses a series of electrodes placed over your chest, arms, and legs and gives a quick and accurate reading of your heart rate.
A portable version of an EKG, called a Holter Monitor, can regulate your heart for a few days and is a painless way to help diagnose an arrhythmia.
This technique uses an ultrasound device to look at your heart and has the added benefit of visualizing each heart chamber.
This is a process in which a doctor can inject dye into your heart to perform a chest x-ray.
A doctor will insert a catheter into a blood vessel in your arm, leg or torso. It will make its way to your heart and dye will be injected.
Once an arrhythmia is detected treatment can begin.
A pacemaker is a device which is inserted into your body and sends small electrical signals to the heart. This ensures the heart is kept at a safe beat.
Other devices achieve similar effects like an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, which monitors your heart rate and sends an electrical shock if it senses an irregular heartbeat.
Certain medications can help regulate your heart rate like beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.
The best way to detect a heart arrhythmia is by having regular doctor checkups. If you’re worried about your heart, our medical professionals are happy to help.
Give us a call or schedule an appoint online. We’re always accepting new patients.