What are arrhythmias?

Arrhythmias is the medical name for disorders of heart rate (pulse) or heart rhythm, such as beating too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregularly. The disease causes symptoms in the cardiopulmonary system.

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Arrhythmias are caused by an abnormality in the conduction of nerve signals (impulses) within the heart muscle that affects the way the heart beats. Most arrhythmias are harmless, but others can be serious or even life threatening. If the heart rate is too fast, too slow, or irregular, the heart may not be able to effectively pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart, and other organs due to a lack of oxygen.

The signs and symptoms of arrhythmias can be brief or last indefinitely. The disease course varies among individuals. Some people with arrhythmias have no symptoms at all, while others may have severe symptoms that compromise the cardiopulmonary system, creating a life-threatening situation. Fortunately, arrhythmias can usually be treated successfully.

Left untreated, arrhythmias may lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe chest pain or pressure, sweating, and severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or bluish lips, fast heart rate, and anxiety. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for arrhythmias but mild symptoms, such as fatigue, palpitations, or an irregular heartbeat, recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of arrhythmias?

Arrhythmias may produce a broad range of symptoms, from barely noticeable to cardiovascular collapse. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.... Read more about arrhythmiassymptoms

CAUSES

What causes arrhythmias?

Arrhythmias are caused by problems with the heart’s electrical conduction system. The heart has its own pacemaker that normally sends out the signals to control the heartbeat, but other areas of the heart’s electrical system also have the ability to send out signals. When other areas of the heart start to send signals to beat, the heart rhythm is altered. At other times, electrical signals cannot be transmitted throughout the heart muscles as easily or at all. Different nerve messages may cause your heart to beat too slowly (bradycardia), too quickly (tachycardia), or irregularly.... Read more about arrhythmiascauses

TREATMENTS

How are arrhythmias treated?

Treatment for arrhythmias begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have arrhythmias, your health care provider will conduct several diagnostic tests.... Read more about arrhythmiastreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation