Heart arrhythmia - symptoms, causes and treatment - LUXMED

Cardiac arrhythmia - symptoms, causes and treatment

Your heart is the centre of the universe that is your body. It largely determines whether your organs are properly oxygenated and nourished, and whether your heart is healthy. A healthy adult heart beats between 60 and 90 times per minute. It slows down during sleep and rest, accelerates during exertion or in moments of nervousness . The correct number of The correct number of heartbeats per minute ensures that the organs are oxygenated and properly nourished.

Cardiac arrhythmia - symptoms

Is it always the case that a slowed, accelerated or irregular heartbeat is a sign of arrhythmia? NO: they can be a completely harmless response of the body to various stimuli. In this case, the ECG shows the presence of a normal heart rhythm - sinus rhythm - but it is just slowed down, accelerated or sinus irregularity occurs - especially common in young people.

The problem arises when there is excessive slowing of the heart rate, acceleration of the heart rate or irregular heartbeat.  and may be indicative of an arrhythmia.

The most common forms of arrhythmias are: supraventricular and ventricular extrasystoles , atrial fib rillation and flutter , and atrioventricular conduction disturbances . Episodes of supraventricular or ventricular tachycardia are less frequent.

Patients with arrhythmias report a variety of symptoms, e.g. palpitations, irregular heartbeats, a feeling of heart stoppage, attacks of shortness of breath, weakness, heat. With severe cardiac arrhythmias, the patient may fall asleep, lose consciousness, or even die.

Causes of cardiac arrhythmias

Do you have high blood pressure? You may also have a heart arrhythmia. But it is not only hypertension that can cause an abnormal heart rhythm. It can be heart defects (both congenital and acquired), ischemic heart disease or non-cardiac conditions such as thyroid disease, electrolyte disorders, diabetes, kidney disease.

How to treat cardiac arrhythmia

Episodes ofatrialfibrillation and flutter carry an increased thromboembolic risk.

In people with this type of arrhythmia, the atria of the heart do not contract effectively, but vibrate, disrupting the normal, even flow of blood. This turbulence in blood flow facilitates the formation of thrombi in the left atrium, particularly in a structure called the left atrial appendage. In the absence of adequate anticoagulant treatment, the thrombi move with the blood flow to the periphery, which can result in an embolism of the corresponding arterial vessel - if this is the cephalic artery, an ischaemic stroke will occur, and ischaemia of the limb, kidney or intestines may develop. People over 65 years of age, with hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerotic disease of the peripheral arteries or people who have already suffered an episode of central nervous system ischaemia are particularly exposed to this complication.

Therefore, if, on physical examination, the doctor finds cardiac irregularity, he or she should perform an ECG and, upon diagnosis of an arrhythmia, implement appropriate treatment.

Another dangerous arrhythmia is episodes of ventricular tachycardia. This type of heart disturbance usually occurs in people with advanced organic heart disease, e.g. severe heart failure, after myocardial infarction. In these patients, appropriate diagnostics, pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment - implantation of a cardioverter-defibrillator - is particularly important. This is a device designed to stop life-threatening arrhythmia.

It can also be dangerous if the heart slows down too much, known as bradycardia. This can have various causes - it often occurs in people who are active in sports, in which case the heart may work at around 45-50 beats per minute during the day, slowing down to as low as 30/min at night. If this does not cause any alarming symptoms - dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness, it is a completely normal reaction of the body. However, bradycardia may be the result of abnormal transmission of electrical impulses in the heart as a result of, for example, disorders concerning the stimulus conduction system, congenital heart defects or coronary artery disease.

In the absence of electrical impulses from the sinus node, the heart stops working, which is an immediate life-threatening condition. For this reason, in some patients it is advisable to implant a pacemaker - otherwise known as a "pacemaker" - to ensure that the heart is working properly.

Pacemakers allow patients to live a normal life. They prevent the onset of dizziness, fainting and loss of consciousness - provided that these symptoms were due to disturbances of conduction in the heart.

How to recognise cardiac arrhythmia

Usually a resting ECG is the primary investigation. If the patient's symptoms are infrequent, several times a day or several times a week, the resting ECG may not capture e.g. additional contractions. We then recommend continuous ECG Holter monitoring - usually 24-hour, but also 48 or 72-hour. It is also important to exclude organic heart disease, so an echocardiogram or an exercise test is recommended.

Medical consultation
physician Piotr Flis - cardiologist