The following describes the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of tachycardia. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
What is tachycardia?
Tachycardia is the name for a heartbeat that is too fast. Typically, this means that the heart is beating at more than 100 beats per minute. However, the definition of a “too fast” heartbeat varies considerably depending on the individual. A person’s normal heartbeat may change as he or she ages, as physical condition changes, or during periods of exercise or physical exertion. The specific type of tachycardia that a person is experiencing depends on which structures of the heart (ventricles, or both the ventricles and the atria) are affected.
What causes tachycardia?
Tachycardia involves a disruption of the electrical signals that signal the various chambers of the heart to beat in rhythm. This can be a result of heart disease and other heart problems, including congenital (from birth) heart defects or abnormal heart valves, damage due to heart attacks, or complications following heart surgery. However, other problems can also disrupt the electrical impulses, including certain medications, electrolyte imbalances, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, viral infections, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatic fever or lupus, or what is known as “sick sinus syndrome,” in which the heart’s own pacemaker begins to function abnormally.
Older people and individuals with a personal or family history of heart problems are at greater risk for experiencing tachycardia than others.
What are the symptoms of tachycardia?
Symptoms of tachycardia vary from person to person, but often include dizziness, confusion, or fainting spells. Some people can feel their heart beating rapidly, in a regular or irregular rhythm, while others are unaware of the change in their heart rate.
How is tachycardia diagnosed?
Your Hurley cardiologist will focus on determining the underlying cause of your tachycardia. Your physician will likely conduct a number of tests, including echocardiograms, electrocardiograms (EKG or ECG), and cardiac catheterization, among others. You may also be asked to wear monitors that can track your heartbeat and blood pressure for up to 24 hours while you are at home.
How is tachycardia treated?
Treatment for tachycardia will depend upon the underlying condition that is causing your heart to beat too quickly, as well as the specific symptoms you are experiencing. In urgent or emergency situations, trained medical personnel can administer cardioversion, or electric shock, to return the heartbeat to a normal rhythm. For chronic tachycardia, medications may be prescribed to regulate the heart rate, or, in a process known as ablation, your cardiologist may destroy the small part of the tissue that is causing the abnormal beating. Some patients respond well the placement of a small defibrillator in the chest, which uses brief electric shocks, as necessary, to return the heartbeat to a normal pattern. Your Hurley cardiologist will review treatment options with you so that, together, you can determine the best course of action.