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Click here to read about the Vanderbilt Cardiac Arrhythmia Program.
Learn more about the heart's electrical system here.
An Arrhythmia is any disorder of the heart rate or rhythm. If you have an arrhythmia, your heart beats too fast, too slowly, or in an irregular pattern. A heartbeat that is faster than normal is called tachycardia, while a slow heartbeat is called bradycardia.
Your heart's rhythm can be affected by many factors, including a past heart attack, a blood chemistry imbalance, or abnormal hormone levels. Certain substances or medicines can also cause arrhythmias.
Most of the time, arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be serious or even life-threatening. An arrhythmia can prevent your heart from pumping blood throughout the body adequately. Lack of bloodflow can damage the brain, heart, and other organs.
Your doctor can order tests to confirm a diagnosis of arrhythmia and to understand its specific mechanism.
Signs of an arrhythmia include:
- A fast or slow heartbeat
- Skipped heartbeats
- Lightheadedness and/or dizziness
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Treatments may include:
- Implantable defibrillators
- Techniques to ablate the arrhythmia (radiofrequency ablation)
- History of heart attack
- History of heart failure or cardiomyopathy
- Heart tissue that is too thick or stiff or that hasn't formed normally
- Leaking or narrowed heart valves, which can lead to heart failure
- Congenital problems of the heart’s structure or function
- High blood pressure
- Infections that damage the heart muscle or the sac around the heart
- Sleep apnea
- Overactive or underactive thyroid gland
- Heart surgery
- Certain drugs (such as cocaine or amphetamines)
- An imbalance of chemicals or certain substances (such as potassium) in the bloodstream