Ventricular Arrhythmias: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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According to popular wisdom, those who are lucky in love feel their heart “skip a beat” when they first lay eyes on the object of their affections. But if you’ve noticed a weird feeling in your heart more than once, is that fluttering heartbeat a symptom of something more?

Research indicates that most people will experience heart palpitations at one point or another—although a greater number of them can lead to a higher risk of heart failure.

If you’ve ever felt your heart racing or fluttering, it’s worth learning more about ventricular arrhythmias. These common conditions are often nothing to worry about, but because they can be a sign of more serious heart problems, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor. If you’re concerned about your heart health, here’s what you should know.

What Are Ventricular Arrhythmias?

Ventricular arrhythmias are a type of heart disorder. This condition happens when the electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart are irregular.

This can result in a heartbeat that sounds too fast, slow, or unsteady. This can happen for a few seconds at a time, or you may notice longer heartbeat issues.

In some cases, these irregular heartbeats can also affect your heart’s ability to pump blood. However, it’s worth noting that this condition can also be harmless, with no serious effects on your health.

There are a few main types of ventricular arrhythmias to be aware of.

Preventricular Contractions

These abnormal heartbeats are often harmless, though you may feel like your heart “skips a beat” sometimes. In healthy people, this condition has little impact on the heart. However, in people with existing heart conditions, they can pave the way for more dangerous arrhythmias.

Ventricular Tachycardia

Also called “VT,” ventricular tachycardia is an unusually fast heartbeat. They come in several forms.

Sustained ventricular tachycardia happens when the quick heartbeat lasts for over 30 seconds. Non sustained ventricular tachycardia, on the other hand, happens for under 30 seconds.

Ventricular Fibrillation

Also called “v-fib,” ventricular fibrillation is when your heart’s lower chambers don’t expand and contract as they should. This means blood doesn’t pump through them, meaning that oxygen can’t circulate throughout your body. If untreated, this condition can lead to cardiac arrest.

Symptoms of Ventricular Arrhythmia

Some people do not experience symptoms of ventricular arrhythmia. This is especially true for people who experience brief episodes.

However, other people may experience the symptoms below:

  • Heart palpitations, including the sensation of a fast, slow, fluttering, or irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Chest pain

In severe cases, sustained arrhythmias can cause more serious symptoms. These can include fainting or collapse as well as heart failure.

Causes of Ventricular Arrhythmia

Your heart’s pumping action happens thanks to a series of electrical impulses. When there are problems with your heart’s electrical system, it may cause an irregular heartbeat.

These problems can happen for a number of reasons:

  • Congenital heart defects
  • The side effects of medications or drugs
  • An imbalance of electrolytes
  • Poor blood flow
  • Scarred heart tissue

Discussing past heart conditions or issues with your doctor can help them understand what may be causing your palpitations.

Risk Factors for Ventricular Arrhythmia

Although these irregular heartbeats can happen on their own, there are a few risk factors you should be aware of. Certain substances can impact your heart’s electrical system, making an arrhythmia more likely. If you’ve experienced arrhythmias in the past, you should avoid the following things:

  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco products
  • Alcohol
  • Diet drugs
  • Certain prescription medications

In addition to the substances above, it’s worth noting that your risk also increases with age. People with certain health conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, may also have a higher risk.

Treatments for Ventricular Arrhythmia

As noted above, not all arrhythmias are life-threatening. Some people experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

However, if you’ve noticed any irregularity in your heartbeat, it’s a good idea to reach out to your doctor for a diagnosis. Having a medical professional keep an eye on your condition can ensure that you’re receiving appropriate care, whether or not your symptoms continue to be mild.

Once your doctor diagnoses your arrhythmia, they will discuss your treatment options with you based on the type of arrhythmia you have.

Patients with mild arrhythmias often benefit from simple lifestyle changes. This can include avoiding substances that can cause arrhythmias, such as alcohol and caffeine. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe medications that can help.

For patients with more severe arrhythmias, there are additional options:

  • Cardioversion: this procedure uses electrical shocks to stop fast arrhythmias
  • Ablation: this involves putting a catheter into your heart to destroy the arrhythmia site
  • Pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator: these permanent devices sit in your chest to send electrical signals that regulate your heartbeat
  • Surgery: this invasive procedure removes the tissue at the site of your arrhythmia

Again, your healthcare provider can help guide you to the best options for your needs depending on your specific symptoms. In addition to common best practices for health, like exercise and stress reduction, your doctor can help you start addressing your condition in no time.

Take Care of Your Heart Health

While the experience of a fluttering or racing heartbeat may seem frightening in the moment, it’s worth noting that it’s not always a cause for concern. Ventricular arrhythmias can happen for a huge variety of reasons, and many aren’t a sign of serious issues.

With a little help from a medical professional, you can work to identify the root cause or work on finding ways to address the issue. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor to take care of your heart health!

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