Types of Dangerous Arrhythmias

Types of Dangerous Arrhythmias

Arrhythmia is a term used to describe irregular heart beats. Arrhythmia is not synonymous for a fast or irregular heart rate: you could suffer from arrhythmia without having an irregular beat, skipping beats or even if you naturally have a slow (or fast) heart rate. There are two types of harmless arrhythmia, and below you will find the remaining types that do require medical treatment.

  • Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is a very common type of arrhythmia. It involves an irregular heart rhythm that causes the atria, the upper chambers of the heart to contract in an abnormal way.
  • Atrial flutter is an arrhythmia caused by rapid circuits in the atrium. It is usually more regular than atrial fibrillation and it occurs more frequently in people with heart disease or the first week after a heart surgery. Later is often transforms into atrial fibrillation.
  • Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is the term used for a rapid heart rate with usually a regular rhythm. The PSVT in this case originates from above the ventricles and begins and ends suddenly. There are two principal sub-types: accessory path tachycardias and AV nodal reentrant tachycardias.
  • Accessory pathway tachycardia is a rapid heart rate caused by an additional, abnormal pathway or connection between the atria and the ventricles. Because the impulses that make your heart beat travel through the additional pathways, as well as the regular ones, you experience an unusually faster beat.
  • AV nodal reentrant tachycardia is a rapid heart rate caused by the presence of more than one pathway passing through the AV node. This causes heart palpitations, fainting or even heart failure. On the positive side, it can easily be helped by a simple maneuver performed by a trained medical professional. In some cases medication or a pacemaker may be necessary to “cure” this type of arrhythmia.
  • Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach) is the term used to indicate a rapid heart rhythm originating from the lower chambers (or ventricles) of the heart. This prevents the heart from filling completely with blood, and because of this less blood is pumped through the body. This condition can become serious if a person has heart disease, and it should be evaluated by a doctor to determine if, and what, can be done about it.
  • Ventricular fibrillation is a disorganized and erratic firing of impulses from the ventricles. This means that the ventricles are unable to contract or pump blood to the body. Obviously, this is a medical emergency but can be treated with CPR and defibrillation if medical attention is sought as soon as possible.
  • Long QT syndrome. On an ECG (electrocardiogram) the time it takes for a heart muscle to contract and recover is called the QT interval. When this interval is longer than average (i.e. normal) it can increase the risk for a life-threatening form of ventricular tachycardia called “torsade de pointes”. Long QT syndrome is genetically inherited and can therefore cause sudden death in young people. Once discovered, it can be treated with antiarrhythmic drugs, a pacemaker, defibrillation, electrical cardioversion or an implanted cardioverter/defribillator.
  • Bradyarrhythmias are slow heart rhythms. They can be caused by a disease in the electrical conduction system of the heart. For example, bardyarrhythmias can occur from sinus node dysfunction or a heart block.
  • Sinus node dysfunctions are caused by abnormal sinus nodes and result in a slow heart rhythm. This condition is only treated with a pacemaker.
  • Aheart block is a delay or complete block of the electrical impulses that make your heart beat. The block is generally located between the sinus node and the ventricles of the heart. When a heart block is considered serious enough, it will be corrected/treated with a pacemaker.

Read about common symptoms and causes of arrhythmia

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