Arrhythmia

The heart has a normal rhythm of 72 beats per minute. A change in the rhythm of the heartbeat, causing the heart to beat too fast or too slow or to miss a beat altogether is called arrhythmia.

Arrhythmia is commonly known to be caused due to chemical and hormonal imbalances or as an allergic reaction to certain drugs. Hypothyroidism is a known cause of tachycardia. Arrhythmia may be a precursor of a heart attack or stroke. 

What causes Arrhythmia?

Heart beats are controlled through a series of electrical impulses. The heart has 2 ventricles and two auricles. The sinoatrial valve of the heart sends electrical signals which causes muscles of the heart to alternately contract and relax, thus pushing blood through the 4 chambers. This is a continuous activity which goes on without a pause during the lifetime of the person. Any physical condition which causes a disruption in these electrical impulses causes a disruption in the heart’s rhythm that is termed arrhythmia.

Types of Arrhythmia:

Atrial fibrillation: In this condition, the heart beats too fast and has an irregular rhythm. The risk of stroke is increased under this condition. 
Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia: This is a less dangerous condition wherein the heart beats fast but has a regular rhythm. 
Ectopic beats: In this condition the heart shows an extra beat. This is serious if there is an extra beat several times in a row as this may then be a symptom of heart disease. 
Ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation: this is the most serious condition where the heart fails to pump enough blood. This condition needs immediate treatment. 
Diagnosis: this condition can be reliably diagnosed by a medical practitioner using an ECG machine.
 
A treadmill test may be prescribed to gauge the extent of disrupted heartbeat.

Causes of Arrhythmia:

Minor arrhythmia is caused due to:

  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Excessive intake of caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Exercise
The more serious causes are;
  • Coronary Heart disease
  • Abnormal Heart valve function
  • Heart failure

Treatment for Arrhythmia:

In general, arrhythmia is not a cause for concern and may cause mild discomfort. However, arrhythmia starting from the ventricles is more serious as compared to those starting from the auricles.
 
Mild arrhythmia caused due to stress or excessive smoking, alcohol abuse caffeine intake can be cured by lifestyle changes. Irregular heartbeats due to hormonal imbalances can be cured through medication.
  • In case of slow heartbeat, a pacemaker placed under the skin sends electrical impulses to regulate heartbeat.
  • A brief electric shock can be given to momentarily stop the heart and force it into a normal rhythm.
  • For more serious arrhythmias, surgery may be the only solution. A part of the diseased heart may have to be removed.



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