Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias) occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats do not work properly. This can cause your heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly.
Signs & SymptomsJump Up
Some arrhythmias do not cause any symptoms and are discovered incidentally. Sometimes patients may feel symptoms suggestive of an arrhythmia, including:
- Chest fluttering or racing
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting or near-fainting
If you are experiencing these things frequently you should see your doctor. Your doctor will take a history, do a physical exam, and likely order a test to help determine what kind of arrhythmia you are having. There are many types of arrhythmias, so it is important to determine which one you are experiencing in order to treat it properly.
What to ExpectJump Up
Some of the tests used to identify arrhythmias include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG). This test measures your heart’s electrical impulses with electrodes that are attached to your chest and limbs.
Holter or Event Monitoring. These monitors are worn for a period of time and record your heart’s electrical activity. You may be able to trigger when you experience symptoms to help your doctor coordinate them with your heart activity at the time.
Echocardiogram. This is a noninvasive ultrasound of your heart. This gives your doctor information on the structure of the heart, the function of your heart chambers and valves, and how well the heart is squeezing.
Stress Test. During this test, the heart is stressed (with exercise or IV chemical) and monitored for signs of weakness. This is how your doctor assesses for blockage in your heart arteries.
Electrophysiological Testing and Mapping. This is a procedure performed by an electrophysiologist in the cath lab. During this procedure, an IV is started in the femoral vein and a wire is threaded up to your heart. The electrodes on the wire allow your doctor to map your heart and do different tests to determine what type of arrhythmia you are having. If indicated, your doctor may perform a cardiac ablation to eliminate the arrhythmia.
Once your arrhythmia is diagnosed, your doctor will discuss treatment options which may include lifestyle changes, medications, and/or catheter ablations.
How We TreatJump Up
Usually, treatment is only required if the arrhythmia is causing significant symptoms or if it’s putting you at risk of a more serious arrhythmia or any other complications. There are several ways to treat different arrhythmia conditions including medications, catheter ablation, the use of implantable devices (pacemakers, ICDs, etc.) to control heart rhythms, and surgical treatments.
Is there anything I can do to help with my heart arrhythmia?
In addition to treatments, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes including: eating more heart-healthy foods, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, and drinking alcohol in moderation.
What causes arrhythmias?
Arrhythmias may be caused by many different factors including: coronary artery disease, electrolyte imbalances in your blood, changes in your heart muscle, injury from a heart attack, or healing after surgery. Sometimes, irregular heart rhythms occur in “normal, healthy” hearts as well.