Rhythm disturbances occur frequently enough to go unnoticed by most people. They can be fleeting and unpredictable. Under normal conditions, the heart corrects its misstep and continues beating as it should. In some people, arrhythmias can last longer, affecting the heart's ability to function properly. Longer lasting issues may be the result of conduction problems or ischemia, a reduction in blood supply to the heart.
It is possible for arrhythmias to go undetected until symptoms and complications appear. Loss of heart function may become noticeable when you experience symptoms. This may indicate the heart is unable to meet the body's demands.
Conduction problems may cause:
Ischemia can affect any organ or tissue in the body, including the heart muscle. The heart muscle needs a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen to work properly. When the heart muscle does not get enough blood, you may notice symptoms.
Ischemia may cause:
Over time, ischemia can damage the heart muscle. Damage and scarring can lead to heart arrhythmias.
Some arrhythmias you may feel are harmless, but others can be serious. Serious arrhythmias may cause a stroke, heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, or death. If you experience any of these symptoms, call for emergency medical services right away.
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Symptoms, diagnosis & monitoring of arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofArrhythmia/Symptoms-Diagnosis-Monitoring-of-Arrhythmia_UCM_002025_Article.jsp#.WTAp-OvytQJ. Updated September 19, 2016. Accessed June 1, 2017.
What are the signs and symptoms of an arrhythmia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/signs. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed June 1, 2017.
Zimetbaum P, Josephson ME. Evaluation of patients with palpitations. N Engl J Med. 1998;338(19):1369-1373.
Last reviewed June 2017 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.