What is it?

An arrhythmia is a a group of conditions in which the heart beats too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), too early (premature contraction) or irregularly, due to a problem in the electrical activity of the heart.
The term cardiac arrhythmia covers a very large number of very different conditions. Some of them may be symptomatic while others not, and some of them may have serious and life-threatening consequences while others may be totally benign.
Arrhythmias may be caused by certain medications ,as a result of a heart attack, a genetic condition, electrolyte abnormalities and more. The cause may also be unknown.
Main types of arrhythmias include:
* Paroxysmal Supra-Ventricular Tachycardia (PSVT) – characterized by episodes of fast heart rate (tachycardia), originated in your atria.
* Atrial Fibrillation (AF) – characterized by the rapid and irregular beating of the atrial chambers of the heart.
* Premature Beats – a premature contraction of one of the chambers of the heart.
* SA node dysfunction, or Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS) – a problem with the heart's native pacemaker, the SA-node, causing slow heart rate (bradycardia), a short arrest in heart beats (sinus arrest), or alternating slow heart rate and fast heart rate (tachy-brady syndrome)
* Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) - a fast heart rate originated in your ventricles.
* ventricular fibrillation (VF) – a condition in which the ventricles of the heart quiver instead of pumping normally due to a disorganized electrical activity. This is a life-threatening condition that may lead to cardiac arrest and death.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Arrhythmia
- SVT
- Ventricular tachycardia

Signs & symptoms

Cardiac arrhythmias may have no symptoms at all. When present, the most common symptom of an arrhythmia is an awareness of an abnormal heartbeat, called palpitations. You may feel an abnormally rapid or irregular beating of the heart, a skipped or extra beat, rapid fluttering in the chest or a pounding sensation. You may also feel these sensations in your throat or neck
If an arrhythmia results in a heartbeat that is too fast, too slow or too weak to supply the body's needs, this may manifest as a lower blood pressure and may cause lightheadedness, fainting, or chest pain.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your medical and family history and make a full physical exam. They will listen to your heart with a stethoscope and feel your peripheral pulse. In order do diagnose an arrhythmia they will perform an ECG test, that measures the electrical activity of your heart.
Since arrhythmias can be irregular and may not occur while you’re at the doctor’s office, your doctor may have you use a heart monitor at home, such as a Holter monitor which is a Continuous recording of ECG, usually for 24 or 48 hours.
Your doctor may also perform blood tests to look for abnormalities that may cause your arrhythmia.
A more advanced study of the heart's electrical activity can be performed to assess the source of the aberrant heart beats. This can be accomplished in an electrophysiology study, an endovascular procedure that uses a catheter inserted through your blood vessels to map the electrical activity of the heart.

Treatment

Management generally depends on the type of your arrhythmia and whether you are stable or not. Treatment may include:
* Physical maneuvers - Several physical acts, known as vagal maneuvers, can prompt your vague nerve to slow your heart rate. For example - soaking your face with cold water.
* Medications – many medications that slow your heart rate or prevent arrhythmia are available and may be helpful. Some arrhythmias also promote blood clotting within the heart and increase the risk of a stroke. Anticoagulant medications can be suggested in these cases.
* Electricity - Arrhythmias may also be treated electrically, by applying a shock across the heart.
* Catheter ablation – a procedure done through a catheter inserted into your blood vessels and up to your heart, during the procedure your doctor creates a small scar in your heart muscle that blocks the electrical waves that cause the arrhythmia.
* During a minor surgery, Your doctor can implant a pacemaker, or an ICD device (Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator). Each of these devices is suitable for different types of arrhythmia.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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