Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat is common, and in most cases a harmless condition that resolves on its own. However, persistent arrhythmia may cause bothersome symptoms and sometimes even be life-threatening.
Damage to heart muscles can cause sudden cardiac arrest, and an irregular beat associated with atrial fibrillation can increase your risk of stroke.
What symptoms are associated with irregular heartbeats?
You may notice other symptoms along with irregular heartbeats:
- Fluttering or pounding in the chest
- Chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
Contact a doctor if you notice any of the above symptoms, since they overlap with heart attack.
How are irregular heartbeats treated?
An irregular heartbeat may not require treatment. However, you have other symptoms or if the condition increases your risk of other serious heart issues, treatment may include:
- Medications given for an irregular heart rate associated with tachycardia include those that help control heart rate and restore a normal heart rhythm. Examples include sotalol, flecainide, and amiodarone.
- For atrial fibrillation, blood thinners such as warfarin may be prescribed. These medications reduce the risk of blood clots, which may result in cardiac arrest.
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation: Emergency procedure involving chest compression often in combination with artificial ventilation. It may be followed by defibrillation.
- Cardioversion: Involves delivering currents to your heart through paddles or patches on your chest.
- Radiofrequency catheter ablation: A catheter is inserted into the heart through a vein that destroys tissues that cause the abnormal heart rhythm by emitting high-frequency electric currents. Results are long-term, and in some cases, the procedure can cure the disease without any other supportive treatment.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): An ICD is a small pager-sized device placed under the skin of your chest. This device detects the abnormal rhythm of the heart and delivers electric signals to the heart to restore a normal rhythm.
- Treatment of underlying diseases: If irregular heartbeats are caused by any other health issue (such as coronary heart disease), your doctor will treat the underlying health issue. If you have severe coronary artery disease, your doctor may perform bypass surgery to remove blocks from the coronary artery and improve blood flow.
- Maze procedure: This is a surgical procedure that involves making several incisions in your heart tissue to develop a scar tissue, which helps stop the abnormal conduction of electrical signals within the heart.
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