If you have an arrhythmia, your heart may beat too quickly, too slowly or erratically. This irregular heartbeat can affect your heart’s ability to pump blood. Some untreated arrhythmias can lead to blood clots, strokes, heart failure and other heart problems.
Signs of Arrhythmia
Some people with arrhythmia have no symptoms. Common signs of arrhythmia include:
- A heartbeat that quivers, flutters, races or beats too slowly
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling faint or confused
- Chest pressure or pain
Types of Arrhythmia
Among the variety of arrhythmias, each affects the heart differently. Common arrhythmia types include:
- Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common arrhythmia. This condition causes the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, to quiver or beat irregularly.
- Bradycardia occurs when your heart rate is too slow, dropping below 60 beats per minute.
- Premature contractions feel like your heart is skipping a beat. In fact, an extra heartbeat is coming sooner than it should.
- Tachycardia occurs when your heart rate is too fast, going above 100 beats per minute.
- Atrial flutter happens when the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, beat fast (about 300 beats per minute) while the lower chambers or ventricles beat slow (about 75 to 150 beats per minute)
Causes of Arrhythmias
Arrhythmias can develop without warning. Some possible causes include:
- Age (more common in people ages 65 and older)
- Heart conditions, such as heart valve disease or a prior heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Inflammation after heart surgery
- Lung disease, such as pulmonary embolism (blood clot in lung)
- Viral infections (caused by a virus)
- Sleep apnea
- Alcohol or substance use
Your doctor may order one or more of the following diagnostic tests to determine whether you have an arrhythmia:
- Electrophysiology (EP) study: This test of the heart’s electrical activity helps your doctor pinpoint the location and cause of an arrhythmia. This information enables your doctor to develop a treatment plan specific to your heart problem. Our EP lab is the only one in the region.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): This noninvasive procedure measures and records the heart’s electrical activity. The reading shows whether your heart rate is normal, irregular, too fast or too slow. It also reveals if your heart is overworked or enlarged.
- Holter monitor: This battery-operated portable EKG/ECG device continuously measures and records your heart’s electrical activity for up to 48 hours.
- Event (loop) recorder: This implantable battery-operated EKG/ECG device measures and records your heart’s electrical activity for a few minutes at a time.
- Tilt table test: This test for slow heart rate, or bradycardia, measures how your blood pressure and heart rate respond to changes in gravity.
Because arrhythmia can cause strokes and heart failure, prompt diagnosis and treatment is critical. Heart rhythm specialists at Blessing perform a variety of lifesaving arrhythmia treatments. Learn more about our arrhythmia care.