What should I know about arrhythmias?

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Arrhythmias are disorders affecting the heart rate or rhythm such as beating too rapidly, too slow or irregularly. It is important to note that arrhythmias are triggered by an abnormality in the transmission of nerve signals inside the heart muscle that affects how the heart beats. Most forms of arrhythmias are harmless, but others are serious or even life-threatening. If the heart rate is too rapid, slow or erratic, the heart could not pump blood effectively throughout the body. The poor flow of blood can impair the heart, brain and other organs.

The indications might be brief or last indefinitely. The course of the disease tends to vary for every individual. Some do not have any symptoms but can be severe in others that the cardiopulmonary system is compromised.

What are the indications?

Arrhythmias can trigger a wide range of symptoms that are barely evident or even collapse of the cardiovascular system. The symptoms tend to vary in intensity. The usual indications include the following:

  • Awareness of the beating heart
    Palpitations or fluttering sensation in the neck or chest.
  • Premature or early beats that manifest often or in rapid succession
  • Palpitations or fluttering sensation in the neck or chest

What are the causes?

Arrhythmias are brought about by issues with the electrical conduction system of the heart. Take note that the heart has its own pacemaker that transmits signals to regulate the heartbeat, but other parts of the electrical system can also send out signals.

Once other parts of the heart start to transmit signals to beat, the heart rhythm is disrupted. At certain times, the electrical signals could not be transmitted through the heart muscles. The varying nerve signals can cause the heart to beat slowly, quickly or erratically.

Risk factors

Various factors increase the risk for developing arrhythmias. Not all individuals with risk factors will develop issues though.

  • Imbalances in the blood chemistry such as irregular potassium levels
  • Previous heart attack
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Certain drugs or substances including caffeine, amphetamines, cocaine and some prescription medications


The treatment for arrhythmias starts with a consultation with a doctor. Several diagnostic tests are done to determine if the individual has arrhythmias.

There are 3 main objectives in the management of arrhythmias – symptom relief, prevention of circulatory collapse and prevention of arrhythmia-linked complications such as stroke.

Various medications might be given to prevent an arrhythmia from occurring again or to prevent the heart rate from becoming too fast or too slow. The individual should carefully follow the treatment plan and use the medications as instructed to avoid any recurrence.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on arrhythmias is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage heart issues by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.

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