An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat – the heart may beat too fast (tachycardia), too slowly (bradycardia), too early (premature contraction) or too irregularly (fibrillation). Arrhythmias are heart-rhythm problems – they occur when the electrical impulses to the heart that coordinate heartbeats are not working properly i.e. like a short circuit.
Most arrhythmias are harmless, but occasionally the heart may beat too rapidly or slowly for normal function, in which case it may pose a danger to life.
What Causes Arrhythmia?
Many types of heart disease cause arrhythmia. Coronary disease is a common trigger, but some younger individuals may also have arrhythmias due to congenital anomalies. Medications and alcohol may also predispose to or induce arrhythmias. The commonest symptom of an arrhythmia is palpitations. Your cardiologist can run tests to find out if you have an arrhythmia.
How are Arrhythmias Diagnosed?
The commonly used tests include:
A resting ECGA treadmill exercise stress test
24-hour Holter monitoring
Transtelephonic ECG monitoring with event monitoring
Electrophysiology study (EPS)
Head-up tilt table test
Treatment of Arrhythmias
Your treatment will depend on the type, cause and severity of your arrhythmia. This may range from a purely conservative treatment with lifestyle modification and maneuvers to manage your own heart rhythm, to the usage of medicines, to surgical procedures like implanting an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) or a pacemaker or performing radio-frequency catheter ablation treatments of short-circuiting pathways in the heart.