The heart is one of the most essential muscles in our organism, working 24/7 without breaks. This continuous engine endlessly pumps the blood in certain algorithms. However, different factors may interrupt and alter the heart rate and complicate its work. This deviation is called cardiac arrhythmia. Violation of the heart rhythm (arrhythmia) is a disease in which there is a violation of the frequency (slowing down or accelerating the rhythm), rhythm, or a violation of the sequence of electrical excitation in the conducting system of the heart.

In this article, we will speak about the reasons, symptoms, and risks of the most common disorders and deviations from the normal heart rate.

The most common heart disorders are atrial fibrillation or tachycardia, in which there is an increased heart rate and heart rhythm failure.

Symptoms

Arrhythmia symptoms include:

  • heart palpitations (tachycardia);
  • dizziness;
  • drowsiness;
  • confusion of thoughts;
  • light-headedness;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • convulsions;
  • pain in the chest and heart area;
  • angina pectoris (Angina pectoris).

Causes and risks

Cardiac arrhythmias can be caused by:

  • nervousness;
  • excitement;
  • feelings of fear, excessive addiction to caffeine (such as coffee or Coca-Cola);
  • alcohol abuse;
  • the use of drugs;
  • a side effect of taking certain medications, such as thyroid hormones or antidepressants;
  • infectious and inflammatory processes;
  • irritation of the so-called carotid node (carotid sinus syndrome).

The organic bases of arrhythmias are often:

  • ischemic heart disease (CHD);
  • heart attack;
  • myocardial diseases (cardiomyopathy);
  • inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis);
  • heart defects or heart valves;
  • congenital or acquired premature excitation of the heart ventricles (Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, or WPW syndrome);
  • high blood pressure (arterial hypertension);
  • violation of water and electrolyte balance (for example, potassium deficiency in the body);
  • decreased (hypothyroidism) or increased (hyperthyroidism) thyroid function.

Diagnostics

Electrocardiography

Often, patient complaints can help doctors make a preliminary diagnosis and determine the severity of the arrhythmia. The most important factors to consider is whether the heartbeat is:

  • fast or slow;
  • regular or irregular;
  • short or long.

Another important consideration to consider is whether the arrhythmia is causing symptoms.

Doctors also need to know if palpitations occur at rest or only during strenuous or unusual activities and if they have a sudden or gradual onset.

Typically, some diagnostic procedures are needed to determine the exact nature of the arrhythmia and its cause.

Other diagnostic procedures include:

  • exercise test;
  • measuring blood pressure during exercise;
  • echocardiography to detect anatomical abnormalities;
  • electrophysiological research.

Treatment

There is a significant number of medicines that are prescribed to control heart rate. Classical antiarrhythmic drugs include the so-called calcium channel blockers, potassium channel blockers, calcium antagonists, beta-blockers. They act on the system of conduction of the excitation impulse in the heart muscle and, thus, normalize the heart rate.

Cardiac glycosides (e.g., digoxin, digitoxin) are also effective drugs against arrhythmias, which, by increasing the force of heart contractions and slowing the heart rate, decrease atrioventricular conduction. To restore normal sinus rhythm, cardioversion is used, both medical and electrical, with the use of a defibrillator. Electrocardioversion is an urgent emergency measure in the treatment of ventricular flutter, ventricular fibrillation, ventricular and supraventricular tachycardias.

Not always and not all cases of arrhythmia need treatment, and if external prerequisites for its occurrence have appeared, then they must be eliminated first. We are talking primarily about diseases that contribute to the appearance of arrhythmias, for example, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, or thyroid dysfunction.