Changes in the rate and frequency with which the heart pumps blood, whether due to excess, deficit or irregularity, are called arrhythmias. Although in many cases these abnormalities are not serious or do not produce symptoms, in others they increase the risk of heart problems such as heart attacks or sudden stops.
In this article, we will detail what types of arrhythmia exist and what are the causes, symptoms and severity of each of them. It should be noted that some types of arrhythmia can pose a health risk even if they do not produce symptoms.
What are arrhythmias?
“Arrhythmia” is the name given to heart rhythm and rate disturbances. These changes can consist of an increase, decrease or irregularity in the speed of the heartbeat.
We speak of tachycardia when the heart rate and / or the frequency are significantly increased (more than 100 beats per minute in adults), while in the event of slowing down (less than 60 beats per minute) we will be faced with a case of bradycardia.
Its severity varies: While some arrhythmias are harmless, others can be a symptom of larger circulatory problems or even pose a short-term health risk, increasing the likelihood of suffer from heart attacks or cardiac arrest.
If the problems are severe, treatment for arrhythmias usually involves administration of anticoagulants or beta blockers, cardiac surgery, or, in the case of bradycardia, implantation of a pacemaker. Each of the different types of arrhythmia is treated differently because the alterations can be opposed to each other.
Causes of these alterations
Arrhythmias are caused by changes in the electrical impulses of the heart. These abnormalities can be caused by the appearance of additional electrical signals, the blockage or delay of electrical conduction, or the propagation of these impulses through inappropriate pathways.
Although they can occur at any age, arrhythmias are more common in the elderly. In many cases, they are influenced by congenital problems of heart morphology or diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism or heart failure.
The most common causes of tachycardia are the use and abuse of drugs and stimulants, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, cocaine, alcohol and caffeine. Continued stress also promotes the onset of tachycardia. As for bradycardia, it is generally the result of atrioventricular or cardiac blockages.
Symptoms and signs
In many cases, arrhythmias do not produce any detectable symptoms or signs, beyond the altered heart rate or rate. Even asymptomatic arrhythmias can predispose to the development of heart problems and accidents, for example through the formation of clots that make it difficult to transport blood to the heart.
People with arrhythmias often notice palpitations or pauses between each heartbeat. These can be more or less frequent and occur continuously or intermittently.
In more severe cases of arrhythmia may occur symptoms such as fainting or fainting, Difficulty breathing, sweating, pallor, lightheadedness and lightheadedness or chest pain. In addition, the more severe the arrhythmia, the greater the likelihood of cardiac arrest, heart attack, or sudden death.
Types of arrhythmia and their severity
There are four main types of arrhythmia. Each of them is made up of a series of alterations of varying severity.
Extrasystoles are extra beats resulting from electrical impulses that incorrectly spread throughout the heart. It is premature ventricular contractions followed by a compensatory break.
This type of arrhythmia is the most common of all and is usually not dangerous, so it usually does not require treatment. Extrasystoles are usually asymptomatic, although people who have them may notice a restlessness in the chest or a feeling that the heart is skipping certain heartbeats.
2. Supraventricular arrhythmias
This type of arrhythmia is characterized by the appearance of tachycardias in the atria of the heart or in the atrioventricular nodule, which, as the name suggests, is located between the ventricles and the atria.
Among supraventricular arrhythmias, the most common subtype is atrial fibrillationRapid, irregular contractions to which severe severity is attributed because they indicate that the heart is not pumping blood properly. They predispose to the occurrence of episodes of heart failure and stroke.
3. Ventricular arrhythmias
Ventricular arrhythmias cause approx. 80% of all deaths from sudden heart failureThey are therefore considered a severe form of this disorder and generally warrant medical intervention, especially when the episodes are prolonged.
Some of the factors that lead to the occurrence of ventricular arrhythmias include the presence of heart disease, the weakening of their muscles, and the fact that they have already suffered from heart attacks.
These arrhythmias consist of bradycardia, that is, a slowing of the heart rate or rhythm. When intense, blood does not reach the brain in the required amount, which can cause dizziness and even fainting. In general we can say that its severity is less than that of ventricular and supraventricular arrhythmias.
Some of the most common causes of bradyarrhythmia are aging, hypothyroidism, heart attacks, or the use of medications such as beta blockers. However, some people, especially if they are in good physical shape, generally have a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute; in these cases, bradycardia is not a problem.