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Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Introduction

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.

Treatment of abnormal heart rhythm varies depending on the type and cause of the disorder. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of abnormal heart rhythm. ...more »

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Symptoms

The symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm differ depending on the type and severity of the disorder. Symptoms can include anxiety, palpitations, chest pan, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting or syncope and angina. Symptoms can also include seizures, hypotension, weak pulse, absent pulse, labored breathing and loss of breathing (apnea).

Untreated severe abnormal heart ...more symptoms »

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Treatments

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, the age of the patient, and ...more treatments »

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Misdiagnosis

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 ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Abnormal Heart Rhythm?

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Complications

Read more about complications of Abnormal Heart Rhythm.

Causes of Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Read more about causes of Abnormal Heart Rhythm.

More information about causes of Abnormal Heart Rhythm:

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Abnormal Heart Rhythm

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 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 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 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 attack, whereas there more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used more »

Hypertension misdiagnosis common in children: Hypertension is often misdiagnosed in adults (see misdiagnosis of hypertension), but its misdiagnosis is more »

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Abnormal Heart Rhythm:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Abnormal Heart Rhythm, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Abnormal Heart Rhythm: Animations

User Interactive Forums

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Definitions of Abnormal Heart Rhythm:

An abnormal rate of muscle contractions in the heart. - (Source - Diseases Database)


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