Arrhythmias are abnormalities of the heartbeat. There are many types of arrhythmias, and they are classified by where they originate (the atria, atrioventricular (AV) node, or the ventricles). Generally speaking, those come from the atria are called supraventricular arrhythmias (SVT) while those that come from the ventricles are called ventricular arrhythmias.
Most Common Arrhythmias Include:
- Atrial fibrillation,
- Ventricular Tachycardia
Supraventricular Arrhythmias or “SVTs”
These are arrhythmias that begin above the ventricles. “Supra” means above and “ventricular” refers to the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). Common SVTs include: Atrial fibrillation, atrial tlutter, atrial tachycardia, and AV nodal reentrant tachycardia.
These are arrhythmias that begin in the lower chambers of the heart. Common venticular rhythms include: Ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and pemature ventricular contractions (PVCs).
These are slow heart rhythms, which may arise from disease in the heart’s conduction system (such as the sinoatrial node, AV node or His-Purkinje system). Common Bradyarryhtmias include: Sick Sinus Syndrome or Sinus node dysfunction, heart block, or junctional rhythm.
Although there are many causes… some unknown the most common are: Potential heart attack that’s occurring right now, scarring of heart tissue from a prior heart attack, changes to your heart’s structure, such as from cardiomyopathy, blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease), high blood pressure, diabetes, overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), smoking, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, drug abuse, stress, medications, dietary supplements and herbal treatments, electrical shock and air pollution.
Your nurse or physician may perform blood tests, do an electrocardiogram (EKG, a recording of your heart’s electrical activity), or use a heart monitor to assess your heart rate and rhythm.
If the arrhythmia is caused by a disease, treatment of the underlying disorder is necessary. Antiarrhythmic drugs may be used to treat rhythm disorders. Many patients tolerate antiarrhythmic medications quite well, but all of these drugs may cause side effects, so patients should report any new sensations, symptoms or difficulties to their doctor. Treatments also may include implantation of a device such as a pacemaker or Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD). Various supraventricular and ventricular arrhythmias are also amenable to treatment through special electrical studies of the heart where the abnormal beat can be eliminated.
When to Seek Medical Care for Your Heart Rhythm
Most people have noticed their heart racing, a fluttering in the chest, or a sensation that the heart skipped a beat. If this happens once, or infrequently, with no other symptoms, it is usually not serious. However, any questions or concerns should be discussed with a health care provider. The health care provider should also be notified if a recommended treatment does not alleviate the symptoms.
More serious symptoms should be evaluated immediately at the nearest hospital emergency department. These symptoms include:
- Any unexplained shortness of breath
- Light-headedness or feeling faint
- Feeling that the heart is beating too slowly or too quickly
- Chest pain with any of these symptoms
People experiencing these symptoms should not drive to the emergency department. They should call 9-1-1 for emergency medical transport.