Do you have an arrhythmia?
By Katrina Vogelgesang, Contributing writer
For April Gottung, an active and healthy young girl, a heart issue shouldn’t have been a worry. Yet, April had spells of fainting for six years until her issues peaked with a seizure at the age of 14, when she was rushed to the hospital.
Diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia, April had to have a defibrillator put in her chest, restrain from all strenuous activity, and will be on medication for the rest of her life.
An arrhythmia is an interruption in the electrical impulses that cause your heart to contract. With many different kinds of arrhythmias, and many different magnitudes as well, arrhythmias are more common than you think.
According to WebMD, an arrhythmia can sometimes be present without showing any symptoms. Often times, though, an arrhythmia causes palpitations, shortness of breath, fainting, dizziness, discomfort in the chest and weakness, according to WebMD. You should see a doctor if any of these symptoms occur frequently or suddenly, or at times when you would not expect, instructs the Mayo Clinic. If any fainting or collapsing occurs, 911 should be called immediately.
There are two types of arrhythmias, according to the Mayo Clinic. A Tachycardia is a sped up heart rate, and a Bradycardia is a slowed heart rate.
According to the Mayo Clinic, arrhythmias can be hereditary, but can also be caused by scarring on the heart, stress, smoking and other substance abuse, diabetes, or other health issues. Blocked arteries or changes in the heart structure can also cause an arrhythmia.
Some of the most common types of arrhythmias include PVC’s and atrial fibrillations.
A PVC is a premature ventricular contraction. This is a common arrhythmia that we all experience from time to time. It can be due to many things, including stress or caffeine, according to WebMD. If someone has an unusual amount of PVC’s, they should have their heart examined by a doctor, says WebMD.
Atrial fibrillations are when the upper chambers of the heart contract abnormally.
To diagnose both the magnitude and type of arrhythmia, the Mayo Clinic states that the doctor will most likely perform an electrocardiogram, or an ECG. This test attaches sensors to your chest to monitor your heart. Other tests could include bringing a monitor home to wear over a period of time in hopes of recording an arrhythmia. This will allow your doctor to examine your heart’s pattern.
Once diagnosed, there are several treatments that can help cure or harbor an arrhythmia. Sometimes, it simply requires a lifestyle change, such as less caffeine or alcohol intake, stopping smoking, or restraining from certain activities.
Other times the condition is more serious, and requires drugs or surgery. According to WebMD, the most common drugs used are drugs that control heart rate or reduce the risk of blood clots. If drugs are not suitable, a doctor may suggest some sort of surgical procedure, whether it be to insert a device or directly operate on the heart.
A pacemaker is a device that helps the heart beat at a suitable rate. Other devices that serve relatively the same purpose include electrical cardioversion and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), states WebMD.
WebMD also says that heart surgery may be necessary to cure heart disease, which could be the cause of the arrhythmia. Whichever treatment you receive depends on the severity and type of your arrhythmia.
Anyone at any time can have an arrhythmia. It’s important to know what the symptoms of an arrhythmia are, and when it’s time to go get checked out. It’s also important to know what usually causes an arrhythmia, and what kind of tests will be run to figure out the state of your arrhythmia. It’s important to be informed on something as common as arrhythmias so that you can stop them before they progress, or even prevent them all together.