Also referred to as heart rhythm problems, arrhythmia affects around two million people in the UK. While most of the time, patients are able to lead a normal, happy life, in some cases it can lead to more serious health problems.

Discover everything you need to know about the condition, and how it is treated in this useful in-depth guide.

What is arrhythmia? Is it serious?

Arrhythmia is the medical term given to issues with the heart’s rhythm. It could be that your heart is beating faster, slower, or irregularly than normal. There are different types of the condition, and some can be more serious than others. Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of arrhythmia to be aware of…

Atrial Fibrillation – The most common type of arrhythmia, Atrial Fibrillation causes the heart to beat faster and irregularly.

Bradycardia – Causes the heart to beat slower than normal.

Supraventricular tachycardia – This occurs when there is a short circuit rhythm in the upper chamber of the heart, resulting in sudden episodes of rapid heartbeat.

Heart block – This causes the heart to beat slower than normal, potentially causing you to collapse.

Ventricular Fibrillation – The rarest type of arrhythmia, Ventricular Fibrillation causes disorganised, rapid heartbeat rhythms. It leads to a rapid loss of consciousness, and can be deadly if not treated quickly.

What’s the main cause of arrhythmia?

There are many potential causes of arrhythmia, but some of the most common include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathies
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Genetics
  • Medications

What are the signs and symptoms of arrhythmia?

The signs and symptoms of arrhythmia can vary depending on the type of arrhythmia and the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include:

  1. Palpitations: A feeling of a rapid, fluttering, or pounding heartbeat.
  2. Dizziness or light-headedness: This can be a result of a decreased blood flow to the brain caused by an irregular heartbeat.
  3. Fainting or near-fainting: This can also be a result of decreased blood flow to the brain.
  4. Shortness of breath or chest discomfort: These symptoms can occur as a result of decreased blood flow to the body caused by an irregular heartbeat.
  5. Fatigue: An irregular heartbeat can make the heart work harder, causing fatigue.
  6. Rapid or slow heartbeat: Depending on the type of arrhythmia, the heartbeat may be too slow (bradycardia) or too fast (tachycardia).
  7. Sweating: Some people with arrhythmias may sweat excessively.

It’s worth noting that some people may not have any symptoms and the arrhythmia may be detected during a routine medical check-up. If you suspect you have an arrhythmia, it’s important to see a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

How is an arrhythmia treated?

The treatment you receive for an arrhythmia will depend upon the type you are experiencing, alongside its underlying cause. Typical treatments include:

  • Medications
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Keyhole surgery – to remove diseased heart tissue
  • Cardiac procedures – such as pacemaker implantation, ICM (insertable cardiac monitor) or an ICD
  • Cardioversion – mild electric shocks under sedation to regulate heart rhythm

Are there ways people can manage their arrhythmia symptoms alongside treatment?

Alongside treatment, other ways to manage your arrhythmia symptoms include monitoring your heart rate and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You can also avoid certain triggers and keep a symptom diary to gain a better understanding of when they occur and why they happen.

Dr Konrad Grosser specialises in integrated cardiology, interventional cardiology and arrhythmia, alongside pacemaker therapy and CT imaging. If you want to learn more, or you want help managing the symptoms of arrhythmia, book an appointment with Dr Konrad Grosser.