Cardiac arrhythmia is a medical disorder characterised by an irregular heart rhythm that might be excessively slow (bradycardia), too rapid (tachycardia), or both. The electrical impulses that govern the heartbeat in a healthy heart are coordinated and regular, but in arrhythmias, these impulses can become disordered or interrupted.
A range of tests, including an electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitor, event recorder, and electrophysiology study, can be used to identify arrhythmias. Arrhythmia treatment may involve drugs, lifestyle modifications, or surgeries like cardioversion or ablation, depending on the kind and severity of the problem.
Cardiovascular arrhythmias, if left untreated, can raise the risk of more serious health conditions such as stroke and heart failure.
Types of cardiac arrhythmia
There are various forms of cardiac arrhythmia, each distinguished by a distinct pattern of irregular heart rhythm. Some of the most prevalent kinds of cardiac arrhythmia are as follows:
Atrial fibrillation (AFib): Atrial fibrillation is a kind of arrhythmia in which the top chambers of the heart (the atria) pulse irregularly and quickly, causing blood to pool and increasing the risk of blood clots. The most prevalent kind of arrhythmia is AFib, which is frequently related with ageing, high blood pressure, and other underlying cardiac problems.
Ventricular tachycardia (VT): it is a rapid heart rhythm that begins in the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles). If VT is sustained for an extended amount of time, it can be fatal, and it is frequently connected with underlying cardiac disease or a prior heart attack.
Atrial flutter: Atrial flutter is a form of arrhythmia that is similar to AFib but has a more ordered and regular cardiac beat. Atrial flutter is frequently linked to underlying cardiac disease and can raise the risk of stroke and other consequences.
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT): SVT is a rapid heart rhythm that originates in the heart’s upper chambers (the atria). Palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath are all signs of SVT.
Bradycardia: it is a slow heartbeat caused by a number of circumstances, including particular drugs, underlying heart disease, or damage to the heart’s electrical system. Bradycardia can produce symptoms such as weariness, dizziness, and fainting, and it may necessitate medication or the use of a pacemaker.
PVCs (premature ventricular contractions): PVC are additional heartbeats that occur in the ventricles and are usually innocuous. PVCs that occur often or in the presence of underlying cardiac disease, on the other hand, may necessitate additional assessment.
Long QT syndrome (LQTS): long QT syndrome is a hereditary disorder that affects the electrical circuitry of the heart and can cause abnormal heart rhythms. LQTS increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and frequently necessitates treatment with drugs or surgeries.
It’s important to remember that these are just a few instances of the many different forms of cardiac arrhythmia that can occur, and that each person’s experience with arrhythmia is unique. If you feel you are suffering from an arrhythmia, you should seek medical assistance right away.
Causes of cardiac arrhythmia
A range of variables, including underlying heart disease, electrolyte imbalances, drugs, and lifestyle factors, can trigger cardiac arrhythmias. Some of the most prevalent causes of cardiac arrhythmia are as follows:
- Heart disease: Underlying cardiac issues such as coronary artery disease, heart valve abnormalities, or cardiomyopathy can disturb the electrical system of the heart and cause arrhythmias.
- Electrolyte imbalances: Imbalances in electrolyte levels, such as potassium, calcium, or magnesium, can disrupt the electrical system of the heart and produce arrhythmias.
- Medications: Arrhythmias can occur as a side effect of some medicines, such as beta blockers or anti-arrhythmic therapies.
- Congenital heart defects: Congenital heart problems, such as atrial septal defects or ventricular septal defects, can induce arrhythmias.
- Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle variables, including smoking, excessive alcohol intake, or drug usage, can all raise the chance of arrhythmias.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea, a disease characterized by disrupted breathing while sleeping, can raise the risk of arrhythmias by putting stress on the heart.
- Stress: Emotional stress or worry can cause the body to generate chemicals that can disrupt the electrical system of the heart and lead to arrhythmias.
- Age: As the heart’s electrical system becomes less effective with age, the chance of getting arrhythmias rises.
It is crucial to highlight that arrhythmias can occur without a recognized cause in some circumstances.
A combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic procedures is used to diagnose cardiac arrhythmia. The following are some of the most often used diagnostic tests for arrhythmia:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): An ECG or EKG is a non-invasive test that monitors the electrical activity of the heart. It is capable of detecting abnormal heartbeats and determining the kind and degree of arrhythmia.
- Holter monitor: A portable ECG gadget that the patient wears for 24 to 48 hours. During this period, it may continually record the electrical activity of the heart and offer a more complete assessment of the arrhythmia.
- Event recorder: A portable ECG gadget that the patient can use for several weeks or months. It is engaged by the patient when they feel arrhythmia symptoms, and it can record the electrical activity of the heart during these episodes.
- Electrophysiology study (EPS): This is an invasive test in which catheters are threaded through blood arteries into the heart. It can map the electrical activity of the heart and pinpoint the specific site of the arrhythmia. It can also assess the efficacy of various arrhythmia therapies.
- Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound exam that creates pictures of the heart using sound waves. It can discover structural or functional abnormalities in the heart that may be causing the arrhythmia.
- Blood testing: Blood tests may be conducted to rule out any underlying disorders that may be causing the arrhythmia, including electrolyte abnormalities or thyroid issues.
Treatment for cardiac arrhythmias is determined on the kind and severity of the arrhythmia as well as the underlying cause. Some of the most prevalent therapies for cardiac arrhythmia include:
Antiarrhythmic drugs can be used to assist control the electrical activity of the heart and avoid arrhythmias. Additional drugs, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or blood thinners, may be administered to treat underlying problems that contribute to arrhythmias, such as hypertension or blood clots.
Cardioversion is a technique that employs electrical shocks or medicines to return the heart to normal rhythm. It can be done as an emergency therapy for life-threatening arrhythmias or as a planned operation for chronic or recurring arrhythmias.
Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive technique in which catheters are used to remove the little portions of cardiac tissue that are causing the arrhythmia. It is often conducted under local anaesthetic and has been shown to be particularly successful in the treatment of some kinds of arrhythmias.
Pacemakers and implanted cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are two types of implantable devices that can assist control the heart’s rhythm and avoid arrhythmias. These devices are implanted beneath the skin and wired to the heart. They can monitor the electrical activity of the heart and provide electrical shocks or pacing to rectify irregular heartbeats.
Surgery may be required in some situations to repair underlying cardiac abnormalities that lead to arrhythmias, such as heart valve issues or congenital heart defects.
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