Your heart is an incredible organ that works tirelessly to keep you alive, pumping blood throughout your body day in and day out. But sometimes, the rhythm of this vital organ can get disrupted, leading to heart rhythm disorders, also known as arrhythmias. These conditions can range from mild and harmless to severe and life-threatening.
At the Cardiovascular Institute of America, Muthu Velusamy, MD, FACC, ABVM, and our team of cardiovascular disease specialists offer a heart rhythm management program to diagnose and treat heart rhythm disorders. We work together to find a solution and personalized treatment plan for your needs.
In the meantime, we’ll explore four serious heart rhythm disorders, how they can affect your health, and the treatment options available to manage them effectively.
Potential causes for heart rhythm disorders
Heart rhythm disorders, also known as arrhythmias, can be caused by various factors that disrupt the electrical signals controlling the heart’s rhythm. Some common causes include heart muscle damage from a heart attack, congenital heart defects, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, and certain medications or stimulants. Understanding the potential causes can shed light on the most prevalent types of heart rhythm disorders.
Let’s explore the four most common ones and their treatments:
1. Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most widespread heart rhythm disorder, impacting millions of individuals globally. It occurs when the heart's upper chambers (atria) quiver instead of contracting normally, causing an irregular heartbeat. Common symptoms of AFib include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness or fainting.
2. Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a condition in which the heart’s electrical signals misfire, causing rapid and irregular heartbeats. It originates above the heart’s lower chambers and can be triggered by stress, caffeine, or certain medications. SVT episodes can come on suddenly and cause palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
3. Ventricular fibrillation (VF)
Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder characterized by chaotic and irregular electrical activity in the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). In VF, the heart quivers instead of pumping blood effectively, leading to a rapid and weak pulse or no pulse. Without immediate medical intervention, VF can quickly progress to sudden cardiac arrest, depriving the body of vital oxygen and causing loss of consciousness. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation to restore a normal heart rhythm. Prompt recognition and fast response to VF are critical for improving survival rates and preventing severe complications.
4. Sick sinus syndrome
Sick sinus syndrome is a disorder that affects the heart's natural pacemaker, the sinus node. In this condition, the heart's electrical signals slow down or stop altogether, leading to heart rate fluctuations. Patients with sick sinus syndrome may experience periods of rapid heartbeats followed by slow heartbeats, causing fatigue, dizziness, and even fainting spells.
Treatment options for heart rhythm disorders
The treatment for heart rhythm disorders varies depending on the condition and its severity, which is why our team develops an individualized treatment plan based on your needs.
Common approaches include medications to regulate heart rate and rhythm, electrical cardioversion to restore normal heart rhythm, catheter ablation to target and eliminate problematic electrical pathways, and the use of implantable devices such as pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) for long-term management and prevention of life-threatening arrhythmias. Dr. Velusamy also recommends you eat a healthy diet, engage in regular activity, and attend your follow-up appointments as scheduled.
If you’re ready to learn more about heart rhythm disorders and discover the most appropriate approach to your specific concerns, call us today and schedule your first appointment, or use our online booking tool. We have offices in Lutz and Tampa, Florida.