Symptoms of arrhythmia

What is arrhythmia and how to identify it?

The normal rhythm of the heart begins in the sinus node located in the upper section of the right heart ventricle and is called sinus rhythm. A normal resting heart rate can vary between 40–100/min. Age, physical fitness and many other factors affect the resting heart rate. In tachycardia, the heart rate exceeds 100/min and usually causes a sensation of palpitations. An accelerated heart rate usually results from the normal acceleration of the heart rate as a result of physical exertion. High fever, dehydration, anxiety, fright or medication (such as asthma medications which open airways, specific cough medicines and nose drops) can increase the heart rate. If the heart is racing for no reason, you may have arrhythmia. In young people and the working‑age population, a bout of heart palpitations often results from a congenital abnormality in the electrical conduction system of the heart. The palpitations begin and end quickly and the heart rate is even and fast, often 150–200/min and sometimes faster. The palpitations usually continue for a few minutes, but may last up to several hours.

Arrhythmia symptom – when to seek treatment?

The most common form of long‑term arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation. The condition is rare in people under 60 years of age, while over 10% of the population over 75 years of age have atrial fibrillation. Other heart diseases, particularly heart failure, increase the prevalence of atrial fibrillation, but approximately one-third of all cases of atrial fibrillation are ‘autonomic’ atrial fibrillation, for which no cause has been found. Atrial fibrillation typically involves rapid, unorganised electrical and mechanical functions (“the ventricles fibrillate”). The heart rate usually accelerates and becomes irregular during atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation does not cause symptoms in some people, while others may have strong symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea. Even if atrial fibrillation does not have symptoms, diagnosing it is important: without correct treatment, atrial fibrillation may predispose to a stroke. Other common forms of arrhythmia include ventricular premature beats, which cause a jumping sensation in the heart. These additional beats are usually common and harmless in healthy hearts, too, but excessive additional beats may be a first indication of heart disease. It is therefore important to examine whether additional heart beats in a healthy heart are a harmless disturbance or a symptom of another heart disease that requires treatment. Arrhythmia symptoms should always be examined. An ECG (electrocardiogram) taken during a bout of arrhythmia is an important method of diagnosis. An ECG examination usually helps to reveal the mechanism of the arrhythmia even if the bout has already subsided. Urgent examinations are usually not necessary. If the arrhythmia symptom is connected to loss of consciousness, severe chest pain or shortness of breath, an ambulance should be called immediately.

It is always important to examine the cause of arrhythmia symptoms.