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An abnormal heart rhythm is a condition in which the heart is not beating in a normal rhythm. An abnormal heart rhythm is also known as a cardiac arrhythmia or an ectopic heartbeat. An abnormal heart rhythm is called a cardiac arrhythmia when it occurs continuously. An abnormal heart rhythm is called a ectopic heartbeat when there is single occurrence of an abnormal heart rhythm or beat.
An abnormal heart rhythm is a symptom of a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that cause the heart to beat in way that is irregular, too rapid (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) and/or not at all (asystole). Abnormal heart rhythms can be mild to severe to life-threatening.
Heart rhythm is controlled by the electrical conduction system of the heart. A healthy electrical conduction system causes the chambers of the heart to contract and pump blood in a steady efficient manner that maintains a normal blood pressure and good blood circulation. An abnormal heart rhythm can result when the electrical conduction system is damaged or stimulated abnormally due to certain diseases and disorders, such as heart disease or hyperthyroidism. Some athletes can develop a healthy abnormal heart rhythm (bradycardia).
An abnormal heart rhythm can occur in any age group or population, but people most at risk include those who have a history of heart valve disorders, cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure and hypothyroidism. Other conditions that can result in an abnormal heart rhythm include electrolyte imbalance, smoking, excessive exercise, alcoholism and drinking too much caffeine. Abnormal heart rhythms can also be a side effect of stimulant drugs, such as certain diet drugs, and some street drugs, such as cocaine.
An abnormal heart rhythm can be acute and appear relatively suddenly, such as the rapid abnormal heart rhythm that occurs with paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia (PSVT). Abnormal heart rhythm can also be ongoing and chronic, such as when an elderly person develops atrial fibrillation.
Other potentially serious types of abnormal heart rhythms include paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, atrial flutter and second degree heart block. Life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms include ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, which can lead to cardiac arrest. In cardiac arrest the heart has stopped beating or is beating too inefficiently to sustain life.
Symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm include chest pain and palpitations. Complications of an abnormal heart rhythm can be life-threatening. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of abnormal heart rhythm.
Diagnosing abnormal heart rhythm and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Diagnostic testing includes an EKG, which creates a picture of the heart's electrical activity and rhythm. A long-term portable telemetry EKG device may also be worn.
Other tests may include a chest X-ray, echocardiogram and blood cardiac assay tests, which can help identify damage to the heart. A diagnosis of abnormal heart rhythm and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because some people may be unaware that they have the disorder. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of abnormal heart rhythm.
Diagnosing abnormal heart rhythm and its cause may be delayed or missed because the symptoms may not be severe or bothersome enough for a person to seek medical care. Some people may be unaware that they are experiencing symptoms of abnormal heart rhythm. In addition, some symptoms of abnormal heart rhythm, such as palpitations and lightheadedness may be attributed to other conditions and ...more misdiagnosis »
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Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Abnormal heart rhythm, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.
The first step in treating abnormal heart rhythm is prevention. This includes not smoking, not using illegal drugs or abusing prescription stimulant medications and moderating caffeine and alcohol intake.
Once an abnormal heart rhythm develops, a treatment plan is individualized to the cause, the presence of coexisting and underlying diseases, ...Abnormal heart rhythm Treatments
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When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Abnormal heart rhythm as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.
Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Abnormal heart rhythm may include these symptoms:
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Read more about causes and Abnormal heart rhythm deaths.
Rare heart condition often undiagnosed: The rare heart condition called long QT syndrome can lead to episodes of palpitations and rapid heartbeat. In rare cases, this undiagnosed condition can be...read more »
Heart attack can be over-diagnosed: Although heart attack is often undiagnosed, leading to fatality, it can also be over-diagnosed. People become concerned that a condition is a heart...read more »
Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure. The "cuff" around the arm to measure blood pressure can simply be too small to accurately...read more »
Hypertension misdiagnosis common in children: Hypertension is often misdiagnosed in adults (see misdiagnosis of hypertension), but its misdiagnosis is even more likely in children. Some of the symptoms of hypertension that can be overlooked...read more »
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Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible
causes of Abnormal heart rhythm as a symptom include:
An abnormal rate of muscle contractions in the heart.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
The list below shows some of the causes of Abnormal heart rhythm mentioned in various sources:
This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Abnormal heart rhythm. Of the 281 causes of Abnormal heart rhythm that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:
The following list of conditions have 'Abnormal heart rhythm' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
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The following list of medical conditions have Abnormal heart rhythm or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
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Medical Conditions associated with Abnormal heart rhythm:
Symptoms related to Abnormal heart rhythm:
Heart sounds (267 causes), Palpitations (566 causes), Arrhythmias (172 causes), Heart symptoms (2927 causes), Slow heartbeat (49 causes), Fast heartbeat, Congenital heart disease (68 causes), Left ventricular failure, Pacemaker defects, Atrial flutter, Atrial fibrillation (77 causes), Ventricular tachycardia, Supraventricular tachycardia
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