What is tachycardia?
A healthy heart will normally beat in a steady and coordinated way. It will slow down or speed up depending on the body’s needs. The rate at which your heart beats is important because it influences how much blood and oxygen circulates around the body. When the heart rhythm is under normal control, it is referred to as sinus rhythm. When in sinus rhythm the heart’s natural pacemaker controls the rhythm. The hormones and nervous system of the body affect this pacemaker and help in determining the heart rate.
A heartbeat that is too fast is called Tachycardia.
Many different arrhythmias can cause tachycardia but there are two main types that are treated differently.
Arrhythmias that occur in the atria (the top chambers of the heart) are supraventricular (above the ventricles) in origin, whereas ventricular arrhythmias start in the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart).
A doctor will determine which type of arrhythmia you may have and treat you accordingly.
The most common symptom of tachycardia is awareness of a rapid beat, usually referred to as palpitations. Other symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Syncope (fainting)
- Chest pain
- Severe anxiety
Treatment will depend on the type, and seriousness of your arrhythmia.
Anti-arrhythmic drugs are medicines that change the electrical signals in your heart and help prevent irregular or rapid heart rhythms.
If your heart rhythm is life threatening then an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) may be advised. It has the ability to determine and stop fast ventricular arrhythmias by using extra paced beats, or delivering an electric shock to the heart.
For further information on ICDs please refer to the ICD information sheet.