Understanding Irregular Heartbeat Symptoms

The pivotal role the human heart plays in the continuation of life and the vitality of the body is something that the medical community certainly doesn’t take for granted, and the average person should also really appreciate the importance of being in good cardiac health. While an irregular heartbeat isn’t cause for the same level of concern as an artery blockage or any other conditional reality posed by heart disease, it’s still something that warrants keeping an eye on and following the advice of your physician. An irregular heartbeat may be difficult for a person to self-diagnose or be aware of on their own, but irregular heartbeat symptoms are more readily identifiable.

This discussion will start with types of irregular heartbeats and what is an irregular heartbeat exactly, before moving to look at irregular heartbeat causes and irregular heartbeat symptoms in greater detail. But before doing so it’s important to state first that an irregular heartbeat can be a part of a normally functioning and perfectly health heart. It’s not always a condition that indicates a damaged or weakened heart.

Irregular Heartbeat Types

There are actually 13 different types of irregular heartbeat, but these are the most commonly seen of them:

  • Premature Atrial Contraction – early extra heartbeats originating in the atria (upper chambers of heart). This condition is harmless and does not require treatment.
  • Premature Ventricular Contraction – this is the most common type of irregular heartbeat and is the ‘skipped’ heartbeat that most people associate with irregular heartbeat. This condition is also fairly harmless most of the time, unless the symptoms are severe.
  • Atrial fibrillation – a very common irregular heartbeat condition where the atria is contracting abnormally.
  • Atrial flutter – this arrythmia is caused by one or more occurring in the atrium. This is most commonly seen in people with heart disease and often within the first week following heart surgery. It commonly stabilizes into atrial fibrillation.
  • Bradyarrhythmia – slow heart rhythms, and usually occurs from functional problems in the heart’s electrical conduction system. Sinus node dysfunction and heart block are bradyarrhythmia conditions.
  • Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach) – a rapid heart rhythm originating from the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart, and thus preventing the heart from filling with blood adequately. This is a very serious condition and medical intervention will always be needed.
  • Ventricular fibrillation – An erratic, disorganized firing of impulse from the ventricles where they are unable to pump blood to the body. This is a medical emergency and immediate medical intervention will be needed.
  • Long QT Syndrome – irregularities in the time it takes for the heart muscle to contract and recover for the next cycle. This is an inherent condition that is can cause sudden death in young people. Treatment with antiarrhythmic drugs like Rythmol (Propafenone) or having a pacemaker implanted in the chest is the standard treatment for Long QT syndrome.

Irregular Heartbeat Causes

An irregular heartbeat is also known as arrhythmia, and it’s defined as a heartbeat that is above the normal beat rates of 50 to 100 times per minute. Arrythmias can occur with normal heartbeats too, however, but most commonly an irregular heartbeat is a result of a bradyarrhythmia (less than 50 beats per minute) or a tachyarrhythmia (more than 100 bpm).

The most common irregular heartbeat causes are as follows:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Changes to the structure and integrity of the heart muscle
  • Electrolyte imbalances in the blood related to sodium or potassium levels
  • Injury resulting from a heart attack
  • Healing process after some type of corrective heart surgery

Irregular Heartbeat Symptoms

Most people will eventually become aware of the fact that their heart is not beating as routinely as it usually does, and there are usually a host of irregular heartbeat symptoms that come along with that. However, do again keep in mind that an arrythmia can develop with no symptoms at all. A physician is able to detect and irregular heartbeat by taking your pulse with an electrocardiogram, and any of the following irregular heartbeat symptoms should prompt you to see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • Heart palpitations, which is described by some as the feeling of having your heart ‘running away’ and can also include skipped heart beats or a fluttering heart beat
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Dizziness or feeling light headed
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Prolonged weakness or fatigue

Irregular Heartbeat Treatment

Different courses of treatments with prescription medications are used to counter and irregular heartbeat and the irregular heartbeat symptoms that come with it. Antiarrhythmic drugs like Rythmol listed above, and others like Tambocor (Flecainide) and Mexilitene (Generic) re very effective in normalizing an irregular heartbeat and allowing people to avoid the inhibitions that come with irregular heartbeat symptoms.

In certain cases, your physician may advise you that you are at greater risk of an associated health condition due to your irregular heartbeat. Most notable among these are blood clots or stroke, and medications like Pradaxa (Dabigatran), among others, are prescribed to counter this risk in patients.

A pacemaker, catheter ablation, or electrical cardioversion procedure may be required for severe or persistent cases of irregular heartbeat. Lifestyle changes can also be beneficial to reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat and experiencing of irregular heartbeat symptoms. These include quitting smoking, limiting intake of alcohol, liming intake of caffeine, and avoiding stimulants that are common in cough and cold medications.