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8 Symptoms Of Arrhythmia (Irregular Heartbeat)

Symptoms Of Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia is a heart rhythm that’s too fast, too slow, or irregular. It can impact your heart’s ability to pump and supply blood to the rest of your body. Symptoms of arrhythmia include palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fainting or nearly fainting, fatigue, sweating, and anxiety. Your doctor will be able to diagnose arrhythmia by conducting tests such as an electrocardiogram.

Arrhythmia is the medical term used for a heart rhythm that isn’t quite right. This can mean that your heart’s beating too fast – more than 100 beats a minute in an adult, a condition known as tachycardia. Or too slow – less than 60 beats a minute in an adult, a condition known as bradycardia. Or your heart may be beating irregularly.

Your heart’s rhythm is controlled by electrical signals and regulated by its natural pacemaker, the sinus node. Normally, electrical impulses travel in a particular order smoothly through your heart’s chambers, making them contract in a specific order so that blood flows through your body. If the normal sequence followed by electrical impulses changes, it can interfere with this process and cause arrhythmia. And if your heart doesn’t beat as it should, it’s not able to pump and supply blood to the rest of the body.

Arrhythmia can be either harmless or potentially life threatening – a gamble you can’t afford to take. Which is why it’s important to detect the condition and rule out or treat significant causes.1 For instance, if your heart muscle has been damaged by a heart attack, or you have a congenital condition where your conduction system hasn’t been fully developed, or there’s an imbalance of minerals like magnesium or potassium in your blood, you may develop arrhythmia. Stimulants like cigarettes and alcohol may also trigger it.

Usually, if you are known to have a heart condition, your doctor monitors your heart rhythm. But they may not be able to detect arrhythmias which occur infrequently. So be on the watch for these signs and inform your doctor if they occur.2

1. Palpitations

A palpitation is an awareness of your heart beating irregularly or rapidly. It covers a variety of sensations, including a fluttering or pounding in the chest, a flip-flopping of the heart, your heart missing a beat, a racing heart, a sensation of your heart beating in your neck, and extra heartbeats.

2. Shortness Of Breath

Shortness of breath is medically known as dyspnea. This is an unpleasant sensation where you find it difficult to breathe. The depth and rate of breathing can change in normal circumstances too – for instance, when you’re at a high altitude or during exercise. But this doesn’t usually cause discomfort. If you have dyspnea, you don’t just breathe faster but also feel like air is running out and you can’t breathe deeply enough or fast enough. More effort may be needed while breathing in to expand your chest or while breathing out to expel air. You may also feel an urgent need to inhale before you finish exhaling and it can feel like your chest is getting tight.3

3. Pain Or Pressure In The Chest

Chest pain can be dull or sharp. Some people even describe it as a sensation of pressure, discomfort, or tightness.4

4. Dizziness

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy can be indicative of arrhythmia. This is caused by a reduction in blood pressure and blood flow to your brain.

5. Syncope

Syncope is the medical term used for loss of consciousness or fainting. It happens when changes in your heart’s rhythm cause blood flow to reduce and blood pressure to drop so much that your brain doesn’t get sufficient blood. This needs immediate attention as persistent arrhythmia with this symptom can be fatal.5

6. Fatigue

Feeling tired or fatigued can also be a sign of arrhythmia.6

7. Anxiety

Anxiety is another symptom that may point to arrhythmia.

8. Sweating

Sometimes, you may sweat excessively when you have arrhythmia.7

What Can You Do About It?

Anxiety, dizziness, weakness, light-headedness, fainting or almost fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, and sweating should be considered serious symptoms that require medical attention.8 Also make it a point to see your doctor if you have a family history of sudden unexplained death.

Your doctor will conduct a variety of tests to check your heart’s rhythm. Treatment for arrhythmia can vary depending on the cause. It can include medication, the implantation of a pacemaker, surgery to remove heart tissue responsible for the arrhythmia, etc. Lifestyle changes like limiting the consumption of alcohol or caffeine, quitting smoking, managing stress, and keeping to a healthy weight can also be useful as they can target arrhythmia as well as underlying medical conditions which cause them.9

References   [ + ]

1. About Arrhythmia. American Heart Association.
2. Understand Your Risk for Arrhythmia. American Heart Association.
3. Shortness of Breath. Merck Manuals.
4. Chest Pain. Merck Manuals.
5. Ventricular Tachycardia. Government of Alberta.
6. Bradycardia | Slow Heart Rate. American Heart Association.
7. Arrhythmia. National Institutes of Health.
8. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Arrhythmia? National Institutes of Health.
9. Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disorders). University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.