What are the symptoms of arrhythmia?
Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have heart disease or have had a heart attack.
- Palpitations or rapid thumping in your chest
- Feeling tired or light-headed
- Passing out
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
At some time or another, most people have felt their heart race or skip a beat. These occasional changes can be brought on by strong emotions or exercise. They usually are not a cause for alarm. Arrhythmias that occur more often or cause other symptoms may be more serious and need to be discussed with your doctor.
Is an arrhythmia serious?
In most people, arrhythmias are minor and are not dangerous. A small number of people, however, have arrhythmias that are dangerous and require treatment. Arrhythmias are also more serious if you have other heart problems. In general, arrhythmias that start in the lower chambers of the heart (called the ventricles) are more serious than those that start in the upper chambers (called the atria). Your doctor will talk with you about the type of arrhythmia you have and whether you need treatment.
What are some of the types of arrhythmias?
- Atrial fibrillation: The heart beats too fast and irregularly. This type of arrhythmia requires treatment and can increase your risk of stroke.
- Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia: The heart has episodes when it beats fast, but regularly. This type of arrhythmia may be unpleasant but is usually not dangerous.
- Ectopic beats: The heart has an extra beat. Treatment usually is not needed unless you have several extra beats in a row and/or other problems with your heart (such as heart disease or congenital heart failure).
- Ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation: The heart beats too fast and may not pump enough blood. These types of arrhythmias are very dangerous and need immediate treatment.
Acute Management of Atrial Fibrillation: Part II. Prevention of Thromboembolic Complications by DE King, MD; LM Dickerson, PharmD; JL Sack, MD (American Family Physician July 15, 2002, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020715/261.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff