An abnormal or irregular heartbeat is known as arrhythmia. Often arrhythmias occur in normal functioning hearts and are benign, but they can cause some uncomfortable symptoms, which affect quality of life, and can cause serious conditions in some cases.
Arrhythmias are assessed by cardiac electrophysiologists. Factors such as the patient’s symptom and clinical situation are taken into account in order to find the most suitable treatment option.
Types of arrhythmia
There a number of types of arrhythmia. These include:
When the heartbeat is irregular, or if it originates in an area of the heart other than the sino-atrial node, it is called an arrhythmia.
Bradyarrhythmia is a heart rhythm that is too slow. When the heart’s rhythm is too slow to meet the metabolic demands of the body, you may experience symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting. Your cardiologist may recommend a pacemaker for bradyarrhythmia.
Tachyarrhythmias occur when electrical impulses are generated in an area of the heart other than the sino-atrial node, and the heart beats too fast. These arrhythmias sometimes occur in normal functioning as well as abnormal hearts. Symptoms of a tachyarrhythmia include heart palpitations, chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting.
How does the heart work?
The heart is made up of four chambers – the right and left atria and the larger right and left ventricles. The atria pumps blood into the ventricles, while the ventricles pump blood throughout the body. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs so that they have access to oxygen, and the left side pumps blood to the body and brain.
When the heart is functioning normally, the atria pump blood to the ventricles before the ventricles pump blood to the body, so the atria and ventricles work in sequence. To make sure that the chambers are all in sequence, and to control the speed at which the heart beats, it has an electrical timing system.
Small cells in the sinus node at the top of the heart send an electrical impulse out 60 to 80 times per minute, which means that the normal rate at which the heart beats is between 60 to 80 times a minute, with an increase during exercise. The impulse moves across the atria from right to left, causing the cells of the atria to contract. An insulated line separates the atria and ventricles from each other. When the electrical wave reaches the line, it ends, and the cells wait for the next electrical impulse from the sinus node.
The atria are connected to the ventricles by the atrioventricular node and bundle branches, which act as electrical paths through which the electrical waves can spread, causing the ventricles to contract. When an electrical wave is sent, it moves from the top to the bottom of the heart before it dies out until the next impulse is sent.