An arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, is a fairly common condition that results when the electrical signals controlling the heartbeat are blocked or delayed. This can be caused by a defect in the nerves that produce the electrical signal or anything that prevents the signal from being carried through the heart. Although usually harmless, an arrhythmia can interfere with the heart's ability to pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
Your chances of developing an arrhythmia can be increased by the following:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Certain drugs (such as amphetamines or cocaine)
- Some prescriptions or over-the-counter medications
- Too much caffeine
- A prior heart attack
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Certain birth defects
Symptoms of Arrhythmia
- Rapid heartbeat or pounding (tachycardia)
- Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- A premature heartbeat that may be felt as a palpitation or as though your heart skipped a beat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Treatment of Arrhythmias
Houston Methodist physicians conduct a physical and may require an electrocardiogram (EKG) to determine if an arrhythmia is present. If an arrhythmia requires treatment, patients are referred to an electrophysiologist, a specialist in treating the heart's electrical system and related conditions.
If an arrhythmia elevates the risk of more serious conditions, a treatment plan may be recommended by your Houston Methodist physician.
- Lifestyle changes, such as controlling or eliminating caffeine or alcohol, may be suggested by your doctor.
- Monitoring and tracking your pulse rate will help determine the clinical significance of your arrhythmia.
- Antiarrhythmic medications, such as amiodarone, may be prescribed to control your heart rate within a relatively normal range.