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An arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart is not beating in a normal rhythm. An arrhythmia 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). There are many types of arrhythmias, which can be mild to severe to life-threatening. Arrhythmia is also known as cardiac arrhythmia.
The rhythm of the heartbeat 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 arrhythmia 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 an arrhythmia called athletic bradycardia, which is generally benign and a sign of athletic training.
An arrhythmia 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 arrhythmia include electrolyte imbalance, smoking, excessive exercise, alcoholism and drinking too much caffeine. Arrhythmias can also be a side effect of stimulant drugs, such as certain diet drugs, and some street drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
An arrhythmia can be acute and appear relatively suddenly, such as the rapid arrhythmia that occurs with paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia (PSVT). Arrhythmia can also be ongoing and chronic, such as when an elderly person develops chronic atrial fibrillation.
Other potentially serious types of arrhythmias include paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, atrial flutter and second degree heart block. Quickly life-threatening arrhythmias 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 arrhythmia can include chest pain and palpitations. Complications of an arrhythmia can be life-threatening. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of arrhythmia.
Diagnosing an arrhythmia 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 longer-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 an arrhythmia and its underlying cause can easily be delayed or missed because some people may be unaware that they have an arrhythmia. In addition, symptoms of an arrhythmia can be similar to symptoms of other disorders and conditions. For information about misdiagnosis and other disorders and conditions that can mimic an arrhythmia, refer to misdiagnosis of arrhythmia.
Treatment of an arrhythmia varies depending on the specific type of arrhythmia, the underlying cause, coexisting diseases and other factors. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of arrhythmia....more »
Diagnosing an arrhythmia and its cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases 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 an arrhythmia. In addition, some symptoms of arrhythmia, such as palpitations and lightheadedness are similar to ...more misdiagnosis »
The following medical conditions are some of the possible
causes of Arrhythmia.
There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor
about your symptoms.
Home medical tests possibly related to Arrhythmia:
Review the causes of these more specific types of Arrhythmia:
Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Arrhythmia, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.
The first step in treating an arrhythmia is prevention. This includes not smoking, not using illegal drugs or abusing prescription stimulant medications, and moderating caffeine and alcohol intake.
Once an arrhythmia develops, a treatment plan is individualized to the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and general health of the patient, and other factors. Treatment ...Arrhythmia Treatments
Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Arrhythmia may include:
Review further information on Arrhythmia Treatments.
When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Arrhythmia 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 Arrhythmia may include these symptoms:
Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:
Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Arrhythmia:
Read more about causes and Arrhythmia deaths.
Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It is altogether too common for people to die from undiagnosed heart attack, or from delaying too long to call for...read more »
Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have a heart attack, but actually have something milder. Some of the conditions which may be ...read more »
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 fatal. It should be considered for any unexplained...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...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"...read more »
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Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:
Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:
An arrhythmia is a change in the regular beat of the heart. The heart may seem to skip a beat or beat irregularly or very fast or very slowly. (Source: excerpt from NHLBI, Arrhythmia: NHLBI)
An arrhythmia is a change in the regular beat of the heart. The heart may seem to skip a beat or beat irregularly or... (Source: excerpt from NHLBI, Arrhythmia: NHLBI)
Most people have felt their heart beat very fast, felt a fluttering in their chest, or noticed that... (Source: excerpt from HEART AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: NWHIC)
An abnormal rate of muscle contractions in the heart.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Any variation from the normal rhythm or rate of the heart beat.
- (Source - CRISP)
The list below shows some of the causes of Arrhythmia 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 Arrhythmia. Of the 267 causes of Arrhythmia that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:
The following list of conditions have 'Arrhythmia' 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.
Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Arrhythmia or choose View All.
The following list of medical conditions have Arrhythmia 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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This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Arrhythmia based
on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:
Subtypes of Arrhythmia:
Additional Heart Sounds (267 causes), Bruit (15 causes), Cervical bruit (14 causes), Bruits (22 causes), Tachycardia (194 causes), Soft Heart Sounds (9 causes), Loud Heart Sounds (10 causes), Intracranial bruit (5 causes)
Medical Conditions associated with Arrhythmia:
Symptoms related to Arrhythmia:
Heart rhythm symptoms (1589 causes), Slow pulse (49 causes), Fast pulse (865 causes), Bounding pulse (27 causes), Heart noises, Bradycardia (111 causes), Tachycardia (194 causes), Heart rythm, Irregular rhythm (18 causes), Fibrillation, Flutter, Sino atrial node, SAN
Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:
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Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Arrhythmia and many other medical conditions:
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