What you need to know about heart rhythm disorder

What you need to know about heart rhythm disorder

It’s Heart Rhythm Week from 3 – 9 June. Here’s why it is so important to take note of any heart rhythm disorders you might have.

A heart rhythm disorder is an abnormal variation from the normal heartbeat. These irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias are mostly harmless, and can happen to people who have no history of heart disease. However, some of them can be dangerous, or even deadly.

Heart rhythm disorders fall into three main categories: electrical, circulatory and structural.

These disorders affect the heart rate itself, the regularity of beats, the sites where electrical impulses regulating heartbeat originate, or the sequence of the activation of the heartbeats.

The causes of heart rhythm disorders

The first one (electrical) is caused by problems with the electrical system that regulates the steady heartbeat, which may be too slow or too fast, or become irregular; the second one  (circulatory)has to do with high blood pressure and coronary artery disease and the third one (structural) describes a heart problem present from birth or heart muscle disease.

It can happen that the cause of an arrhythmia is never found in a particular patient, or that another condition is the cause of the arrhythmia.

The symptoms of heart rhythm disorder

The symptoms of heart rhythm disorder (many of which can cause dizziness, light-headedness, and fainting or near-fainting) include the following:

  • a feeling of having skipped a heartbeat
  • having heart palpitations
  • a fluttering sensation in the chest
  • a slow heartbeat
  • a rapid heartbeat (which can also cause fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain in addition to the symptoms mentioned above)
  • a feeling of having chaotic heartbeats

There are three possible ways of treating heart rhythm disorder: surgical, electrical and with medication.

The surgical and electrical treatments include ablation (a long thin tube is used to correct structural problems in your heart), the implanting of a pacemaker that regulates the heartbeat, open-heart surgery, and external defibrillators (used especially in emergency situations).

Medications used to treat abnormal heart rhythms include medication used to treat high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure and a heart attack. Some patients also take medications to prevent blood clots from forming.

***

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, MediHub cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.