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Arrhythmia - Causes & Treatment
Written By : Dr. James Pendergraft 
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Arrhythmia is a group of cardiac disorders in which the regular beating of the heart gets disturbed. The most common among these conditions is the atrial fibrillation. The degree of severity of arrhythmia can vary from very low where the person's heart is healthy and when the disorder is of little consequence to serious issues where heart diseases or strokes can occur. Death can also be caused in some extreme cases.

Arrhythmia may or may not occur with irregular heart rate. The normal heart-rate ranges between 50 and 100 beats every minute. If arrhythmia occurs with normal heart rate or with rather slow heart rates of around 60 heart beats in a minute, then the condition is called bradarrhythmia. On the other hand, if the heart rate exceeds 100 heart beats a minute, the arrhythmia is referred to as tachyarrhythmias.

Causes: The heart has four chambers known as the auricles which contract to pump blood. The rate of these contractions is regulated by a part of the heart called the pacemaker or the sinoatrial node. The working of the sinoatrial node is again controlled by nervous impulses from the brain and also the hormones present in the blood. Any abnormality in any of these factors that influence the contraction that occur in the heart can be the cause of an arrhythmia.

Transitory arrhythmias may be caused due to idiosyncratic reactions or allergies that people have for certain foods and drinks. Serious cases of arrhythmia may result from long-term exposure to nicotine or cocaine. Hypertension or increased blood pressure, heart defects and coronary heart diseases can also be some of the causes of arrhythmia.

Symptoms: Symptoms may not be a helpful means of detecting arrhythmia in some cases as the condition causes very few or none of them. Even if there any noticeable symptoms, they have known to indicate no serious issue while the extreme cases have known to show absolutely no symptoms. However, most of the conditions of arrhythmias cause some very common symptoms that include shortness, dizziness, lightheadedness, quivering, heart pounding or fluttering, chest discomfort and painful and forceful heartbeats.

Treatment: The type of treatment that is rendered to a patient suffering from arrhythmia depends on the type of condition, his age and physical condition. In the less serious cases, the arrhythmia is controlled by the immune system of the body but in extreme cases, treatment in the form of drugs, automatic implantable defibrillators/artificial pacemakers or cardioversion has to be provided. In a cardioversion, an electric current is applied to the heart across the chest wall. This is a treatment that is provided for pulsed ventricular or supraventricular tachycardia. Defibrillation is used in the case of pulseless ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation and in this case, there is more electricity delivery to the heart than in the case of cardioversion. Other treatments could include medication by arrhythmic therapy, CRT or cardiac resynchronization therapy, catheter ablation, etc.

All these treatments aim at changing the electrical signals that are delivered to the heart thereby reducing or preventing any abnormality in its heart beat.

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