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Heart Rhythm Disorders (cont.)

What are the signs and symptoms of arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders)?

Many arrhythmias cause no or minimal symptoms. Other people, however, can actually feel the arrhythmia when it happens.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Palpitations, feeling "skipped beats"
  • Thumping or fluttering in the chest
  • Sensation of the heart racing

In addition, some can experience symptoms that are more generalized, including the following:

  • Feeling faint or tired
  • Light-headedness or passing out (syncope)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort

On the other hand, people may feel many of the sensations described above and have no arrhythmias whatsoever. These symptoms may be due to anxiety, stress, or other causes besides an abnormal heartbeat.

What causes arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders)?

Among individuals without known heart disease, arrhythmias are generally random, isolated occurrences that do not carry any significance. However, an evaluation by a physician is advised if a person notices any unusual or abnormal heart beats, especially if they reoccur or are sustained.

A variety of heart diseases cause arrhythmias. Heart disease can refer to patients with coronary artery disease, heart valve problems, heart failure, or disorders with heart conduction, or high blood pressure. Remember, however, that having an arrhythmia does not necessarily mean that a person has heart disease. Arrhythmias have many causes; sometimes the cause of an arrhythmia is never determined, other times the cause may be easy to determine and treat.

Sometimes, conditions other than heart disease may cause or aggravate arrhythmias. These conditions include the following:

  • Infection or fever
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Diseases such as anemia or thyroid disease
  • Drugs and other stimulants, such as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and certain over-the-counter and prescription medications, including medicine used to treat arrhythmias
  • Certain arrhythmias can be genetically determined such as Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016

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