Arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm. Your heart’s pumping is triggered by electrical impulses that begin in your heart's sinus node. Arrhythmia may cause your heart to beat too slowly (called bradycardia, meaning less than 60 beats per minute), too fast (called tachycardia, meaning more than 100 beats per minute), or cause uncoordinated contractions (called fibrillation).

Causes There are many reasons you may have an abnormal heart rhythm, including:

electrical impulses coming from another part of the heart and not the sinus node electrical impulses coming from the sinus node, but going to the lower chambers of the heart by the usual path an abnormality in blood chemical levels, from some medicines or stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol

In some cases, abnormal heart rhythms are inherited. If this is true for your condition, your doctor may recommend having other family members tested.

Symptoms The symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm depend on the kind of arrhythmia you have. The most common symptoms include:

  • palpitations (a thumping sensation in your chest)
  • dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • tiredness
  • fainting

Diagnosis Your doctor may recommend an ECG, echocardiogram, electrophysiological (EP), or tilt table exam to help diagnose an abnormal heart rhythm.

Treatment Many arrhythmias are treatable with lifestyle changes, medications, surgery or other non-surgical techniques. Treatment will depend upon the extent and frequency of arrhythmia. Sometimes, lifestyle changes such as avoiding stress, and cutting out alcohol and caffeine, eating a healthy diet, and becoming more active may be helpful.

In other cases, medications and lifestyle changes may not work for you and surgery is needed. If appropriate, your doctor might suggest a procedure such as cardioversion or catheter ablation, or surgery to insert an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker.