Abnormal Heart Rhythm (Arrhythmia)
What Are the Symptoms of Arrhythmias?
An arrhythmia can be silent and not cause any symptoms. A doctor can detect an irregular heartbeat during a physical exam by taking your pulse or through an electrocardiogram (ECG).
When symptoms of an arrhythmia occur, they may include:
- Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or “flip-flops,” or feeling that your heart is “running away”).
- Pounding in your chest.
- Dizziness or feeling light-headed.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest discomfort.
- Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired).
How Are Arrhythmias Diagnosed?
Tests used to diagnose an arrhythmia or determine its cause include:
- Holter monitor
- Event monitor
- Stress test
- Cardiac catheterization
- Electrophysiology study (EPS)
- Head-up tilt table test
How Are Arrhythmias Treated?
Treatment depends on the type and seriousness of your arrhythmia. Some people with arrhythmias require no treatment. For others, treatments can include medication, making lifestyle changes, and undergoing surgical procedures.
What Drugs Are Used to Treat Arrhythmias?
A variety of drugs are available to treat arrhythmias. These include:
- Antiarrhythmic drugs. These drugs control heart rate and include beta-blockers.
- Anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy. These drugs reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. These include warfarin (a “blood thinner”) or aspirin.
Because everyone is different, it may take trials of several medications and doses to find the one that works best for you.
Lifestyle Changes Can Help Arrhythmias?
- If you notice that your arrhythmia occurs more often with certain activities, you should avoid them.
- If you smoke, stop.
- Limit your intake of alcohol.
- Limit or stop using caffeine. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and may notice more symptoms when using caffeine products (such as tea, coffee, soft drinks, and some over-the-counter medications).
- Stay away from stimulants used in cough and cold medications. Some such medications contain ingredients that promote irregular heart rhythms. Read the label and ask your doctor or pharmacist what medication would be best for you.
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