There two main things which can go wrong with the heart: Plumbing or Electrics. Most of us are aware of the plumbing problems with heart but we are unaware of what goes wrong with the electric part of the heart. Arrhythmia is a problem with the electrical part of the heart i.e. the heart rate or the rhythm is irregular, either it will beat too fast or beat too slow. This is one of the common causes of death while travelling to hospitals.

There are different types of arrhythmia: Premature (Extra) Beats, Supraventricular Arrhythmias, Atrial Fibrillation, Atrial Flutter, Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia, Ventricular Arrhythmias, Ventricular Tachycardia, Ventricular Fibrillation, and Bradyarrhythmias. They differ from the way the heart beats i.e. either too fast or too slow or heart beat with pauses.

Cause of Arrhythmia

This is caused if the electric signals that control the heartbeat is delayed or blocked. This abnormal behavior of electric signal can happen if the special nerve cell that creates signal doesn’t work properly or if the signals travel abnormal through the heart.

The other external factors that can lead to arrhythmia is excessive smoking, excessive intake of alcohol, drugs such as cocaine, some prescriptions or over the counter medicines, excessive intake of caffeine or nicotine. Many times emotional stress can lead to increase in blood pressure which then releases stress hormones and causes arrhythmia.

Heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, over reactive or under reactive thyroid gland and rheumatic heart disease can also lead to arrhythmia. And sometimes the reason is unknown.

Signs and symptoms

Many a times arrhythmia may cause no symptoms, though some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Palpitation i.e. beating hard or too fast
  • Irregular heart beat or too slow
  • Pauses between heartbeats.

Some major symptoms are:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Short of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating abnormally

Treatments for Arrhythmia

The various ways of treating Arrhythmia are: Medicines, Surgery and Medical procedures.

  • Medicines:

    It is one of the most common methods of treating any medical symptoms. Arrhythmia can also be treated with medicines. The medicine which slows a  fast heart rate or normalizes an irregular heart rhythm to steady heart rate is known as antiarrhythmics.

  • Medical procedures:

    There are various procedures to treat arrhythmia; some of them are use of pacemakers, electric jolts to the heart, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and catheter ablation.

    • Pacemakers:

      They are usually used to speed up a slow heart beat. A pacemaker is a small device which is placed inside the skin of your chest to send electric pulses to the heart to beat normally, if it detects any irregular heartbeats.

    • Cardioversion (Electric jolts to the heart) :

      They are used to normalize a fast heart rate using Electricity.

    • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD):

      They are similar to pacemakers, people with ventricular fibrillation are treated with an ICD. This is small device which is placed under the skin of your chest, which then sends electric pulses or shocks to control life threatening arrhythmia.

    • Catheter ablation:

      If medicines don’t work then this procedure is used. In catheter ablation a thin flexible tube is guided to the heart inserted either from the arm, groin or neck. This special device sends energy through the flexible tube, the energy searches and destroys the small area of heart tissue where heart rhythm is abnormal. But the doctors first need to perform transesophageal echocardiography to check if there any blood clots present in the artria.

  • Surgeries:

    This is one of the methods doctors use to treat arrhythmia. Maze surgery is used to treat AF, in this the doctors make a small cut or burns in artria which then prevents the spread of disorganized electric signals. If arrhythmia is caused due to coronary heart disease then doctors may perform coronary artery bypass grafting which improves the blood flow to heart muscles.

Most of the arrhythmia is harmless and people do live healthy lives. It is most common to have mild palpitation or extra heartbeats occasionally. People with serious arrhythmia are treated successfully and they do live healthy lives. Keep your heart healthy by maintaining a healthy diet.