Arrhythmia is a disruption in the heart’s normal beating rhythm.
The heart relies on an electrical impulse from the sinoatrial node to beat properly. Normally, the electrical impulse begins in the heart’s right atrium and spreads throughout the atria to the atrioventricular (AV) node, which acts as the heart’s “natural pacemaker.” From there, the impulses travel to the left and right ventricles of the heart. This exact route is followed when the heart beats normally (about 60 to 100 times a minute in an adult).
An arrhythmia occurs when any change disrupts this normal sequence of electrical impulses. The sequence can happen too quickly, too slowly or erratically. A fast rate (more than 100 beats per minute) is called tachycardia, while a slow rate (less than 60 beats per minute) is called bradycardia.
An arrhythmia can be triggered by a number of things, including:
Symptoms of arrhythmia include:
During a physical exam, your doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope, evaluating the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat and checking for a heart murmur. Other tests that may be used to diagnose arrhythmia include:
Treatment options will vary depending on the kind of arrhythmia that you have and whether another health condition is causing the arrhythmia. Some mild arrhythmias require no treatment, while others require medication or more aggressive treatments, such as: