The heart is responsible for rhythmically pumping blood and maintaining a regular heartbeat. When this pattern is interrupted, the heartbeat becomes irregular. You may frequently feel like your heart is beating too fast or too slow or has “skipped a beat.” This condition is known as arrhythmia.
Fast or slow heartbeats aren’t always dangerous. For instance, your heartbeat speeds up while you’re exercising and slows down when you’re resting. However, if your heartbeat is out of its regular rhythm quite frequently when there’s no reason for it to be, you need medical assistance.
An arrhythmia can be harmless at times, but it may also be dangerous if left unchecked. Here’s what you need to know about the condition:
Types of Arrhythmia
Arrhythmia has multiple types that are categorized into three groups: fast heartbeats, slow heartbeats, and skipped heartbeats. As these names suggest, these categories are based on heart rate. The most common types include:
- Atrial fibrillation: The upper heart chambers send uncoordinated signals, causing rapid heartbeats.
- Atrial flutter: The heartbeats are organized but rapid. They can lead to stroke.
- Conduction block: The heart’s electrical pathways get blocked, causing delayed heartbeats.
- Ventricular fibrillation: The lower heart chambers send chaotic electrical signals, resulting in rapid heartbeats.
- Premature contractions: The heartbeats occur one at a time in an alternating pattern.
- Sick sinus syndrome: The heart fluctuates between beating too fast and too slow. This condition is most common in older adults.
When Should You Visit a Doctor?
Heart arrhythmias are often symptomless and usually detected by a doctor during a physical examination. However, if you’ve recently experienced persistent shortness of breath, chest pain, a fluttering sensation, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fatigue, it may be time to visit a physician. Additionally, if you notice your heart beating too fast or too slow, seek medical assistance immediately.
How Is Arrhythmia Treated?
Several procedures may be used to treat the arrhythmia based on the extent of the condition. Cardioversion, vagal maneuvers, and medication are suited for moderate arrhythmia. In other cases, you may require a surgical procedure such as coronary heart bypass, defibrillator placement, or aneurysm surgery.
Houston Physicians’ Hospital is a leading hospital specializing in cardiology, orthopedics, neurosurgery, and Joint Pain Treatments near NASA TX. We provide individualized treatment plans at our Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence, effectively diagnosing and treating various heart conditions.
Visit our website to learn more and to find a doctor who’s right for you.