An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat caused by a change in the heart’s electrical conduction system. Arrhythmias can cause the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or erratically. When the heart doesn't beat properly, it can't pump blood effectively, and organs may be damaged or shut down.  

Arrhythmia have many causes. Among them are: different pathways for electrical signals through the heart, abnormal levels of potassium and/or other electrolytes, a damaged heart muscle from trauma, overactive thyroid gland, and substances such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and anti-depressants. 


Arrhythmias don’t always have symptoms, but you’re more likely to notice signs when you’re active. Symptoms range from mild, to severe and even life-threatening. Common symptoms that may occur when the arrhythmia is present include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Light-headedness, dizziness
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating


The doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope and feel your pulse. Your blood pressure may be low or normal.

Heart monitoring devices, like a holt or event monitor, are often used to identify the rhythm problem. Other tests may include, Coronary angiography, ECG (electrocardiogram), Echocardiogram, and electrophysiology study, a test done to look closer at the heart's electrical system. 


If an arrhythmia is serious, you may require immediate treatment to restore a normal rhythm.

This may include:

  • Electrical "shock" therapy (defibrillation or cardioversion)
  • Implanting a short-term heart pacemaker
  • Medications given through a vein (intravenous) or by mouth
  • Cardiac ablation used to halt areas in your heart that may be causing your heart rhythm problems
  • An implantable cardiac defibrillator for people at risk of sudden cardiac death
  • Pacemaker, a device that sends a signal to your heart that makes your heart beat at the correct pace when your heart is beating irregularly.

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