What is cardiac arrhythmia?
Cardiac arrhythmia is improper beating of the heart, whether irregular heart rhythm, too fast heart beats (150-220 bpm) or too slow heart beats (<40 bpm). Cardiac arrhythmia occurs when electrical impulse in the heart don’t work properly.
What are the symptoms of cardiac arrhythmia ?
Many heart arrhythmia are harmless. However if they are highly irregular or result from a weak or damaged heart it can cause severe and potentially fatal symptoms and complications.
Some may complaints fluttering in chest or chest pain, palpitation (racing heart beats) dizziness (light headedness) fainting (loss of consciousness), shortness of breath. In extreme cases may present with sudden cardiac death (SCD).
What are the causes of arrhythmia ?
It can be caused by heart attack (due to blockage in heart blood vessel) due to high-blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (changes in the heart muscle), genetic disorder, electrolyte imbalance in the blood such as low or high sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, excess alcohol consumption, caffeine intake and smoking. Few medicines taken for other diseases like few antibiotics, antifungal drugs, antipsychiatric medicine, medicine taken for cough and cold can precipitate fatal arrhythmias.
How to diagnose cardiac arrhythmia ?
If anyone having symptoms must consult heart specialist. Blood test to check electrolyte imbalance. ECG to see heart rhythm, Echocardiography to see heart structure, Holter monitoring, external and implantable loop recorder to monitor heart rhythm.
What are the treatment ?
It depends on the type and cause of the arrhythmia and severity of symptom. Life style modification such as eating heart healthy diet (low salt, low fat, potassium rich diet and nuts rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids). Exercise to reduce weight and to improve physical stamina. Quit smoking, excess alcohol intake and caffeine consumption.
Take medicines as prescribed by your cardiologist. If medications doesn’t help sufficiently then require medical procedure. Implantation of devices (pacemaker, implantable cardiac defibrillator [ICD]) to regulate slow heart beat and to deliver a shock to regulate heart rhythm. EPS (electrophysiological study) to confirm the site of origin of abnormal electrical activity and RFA (radiofrequency ablation to cure arrhythmia) cardiac surgery to correct abnormal structure of heart.
Some arrhythmias can halt the blood circulation to whole body and can cause sudden death. Those require immediate medical help like CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation to save life.
There should be screening of family members if there is a family history of sudden cardiac death in young age.
To save life every person should know CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and to handle defibrillator. Defibrillator should be available in public places like airport, railway station, hotels and in societies. Life is very precious, in fatal cardiac arrhythmias (VT & VF) every second is important.
Dr. Gyanti R.B.Singh
Cardiology & CTVS