Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Alternative Names: Dysrhythmias, abnormal heart rhythms, bradycardia, and tachycardia.

The human heart usually beats with a regular rhythm at a predictable rate. But sometimes the rhythm and rate will change. There are a variety of reasons that this happens. The condition is called arrhytmias. In the United States more than 850,000 people are hospitalized for an arrhythmia each year. Arrhythmias are common and usually harmless. Most people have occasional, irregular heartbeats that may feel like a skipped, fluttering or racing heart.

Characteristics of arrhytmias:

    Flutter - Very rapid but regular contractions.

  • Tachycardia - Increased rate.

  • Bradycardia - Decreased rate.

  • Fibrillation - Disorganized contractile activity.


    Cardiac arrhythmia.

  • Continuous arrhythmia.

  • Juvenile arrhythmia.

  • Nonphasic sinus arrhythmia.

  • Phasic sinus arrhythmia.

  • Respiratory arrhythmia.

  • Sinus arrhythmia.

Sites involved:


  • Atrial.

  • Sinus.

  • AV node.

  • Supraventricular.

Many types of heart disease cause arrhythmia. Coronary disease is often a trigger arrhythmia because coronary heart disease produces scar tissue in the heart. This scar tissue disrupts the transmission of signals which control the heart rhythm. Some people are born with arrhythmias, meaning the condition is congenital. Atherosclerosis is also a factor in causing arrhythmia. Other medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure also are factors. Furthermore, stress, caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and some over-the-counter cough and cold medicines can affect your heart's natural beating pattern.

Risk Factors:



  • Tobacco use.

  • Cocaine.

  • Heart attacks.

  • Caffeine.

  • Stress.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Diabetes.

  • Typhoid fever.


Common symptoms include:

    Chest pain.

  • Fainting.

  • Palpitations.

  • Light-headedness, dizziness.

  • Paleness.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Skipping beats - changes in the pattern of the pulse.

  • Sweating.

  • Major discomfort when exercising.

  • Feeling tired and fatigue.


If your doctor thinks you might havearrhythmia, he or she will do a completemedical history and physical exam.The doctor also may order any of thefollowing tests:

    Ambulatory cardiac monitoring with a Holter monitor (used for 24 hours), event monitor, or loop recorder (worn for 2 weeks or longer).

  • Coronary angiography.

  • Echocardiogram

  • Electrophysiology study (EPS).

  • Tilt table testing.


There are a number of ways to treat an irregular heart beat. Treatment depends on the type and seriousness of the irregularity. When an arrhythmia is serious, you may need urgent treatment to restore a normal rhythm.

Treatment options include:

    Medications may be used to prevent an arrhythmia from happening again or to keep your heart rate from becoming too fast or too slow. These are called anti-arrhythmic drugs. Some of these medicines can have side effects. Not all arrhythmias respond well to medications. Medications given through a vein (intravenous).

  • Electrical "shock" therapy (defibrillation or cardioversion).

  • Implanting a temporary pacemaker to interrupt the arrhythmia.

  • Sometimes, getting better treatment for your angina or heart failure will decrease the chance of having an arrhythmia.

  • Radiofrequency catheter ablation therapy, a procedure that gets rid of abnormal heart cells.

  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) placement, which can help a quivering heart return to a normal beat.

  • Cardioversion, a noninvasive procedure that shocks the heart back to a normal rhythm.

  • Treatment of medical conditions that may be causing the arrhythmia, such as thyroid disease.

Preventive Measures:

    Reducing stress.

  • Stop smoking.

  • Limiting caffeine.

  • Eating a balanced diet.

  • Finding a proper mix of rest and exercise.

  • Avoiding stimulant drugs and excess alcohol.

Disclaimer: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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