Understanding types of arrhythmias

The word arrhythmia comes from the Greek (meaning “without rhythm”) and refers to an irregular heartbeat. If you have an arrhythmia your heart may beat too quickly (what’s known as tachycardia) or too slowly (a condition known as bradycardia), or your heart may simply beat erratically. All arrhythmias occur as a result of disruption of the electrical signals that tell the heart to beat at regular intervals of 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Possible causes and symptoms of arrhythmias

Arrhythmia may be caused by behavioral and lifestyle factors such as stress, drinking too much caffeine, or smoking, or by medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or an electrolyte imbalance in the blood.

While some people experience no symptoms of arrhythmia, others may notice:

  • Heart palpitations or fluttering
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Shortness of breath

While some types of arrhythmias are harmless, others such as ventricular fibrillation and atrial fibrillation can significantly affect the heart’s ability to pump blood, which then affects blood flow to vital organs.

Diagnosing cardiac arrhythmias

There are different tests to diagnose arrhythmia and a doctor may prescribe more than one depending on your condition and type of arrhythmia. Tests may include:

If you’re experiencing unusual sensations in your chest or have any concerns about potential arrhythmia, be sure to talk to your doctor.

To schedule an appointment with a Lankenau Heart Institute specialist, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.