Your Care Explained > Conditions and Diagnoses : Arrhythmias

An arrhythmia (also referred to as dysrhythmia) is an abnormal rhythm of the heart, which can cause the heart to pump less effectively.

In women, symptoms of arrhythmia can be mistaken for other conditions, including panic, stress and anxiety, so it’s important that they be evaluated as cardiac problems.

How Arrhythmias Develop

The heart’s beating becomes irregular when the sinus node—the group of heart cells that generate the electrical signal that triggers the heart’s contraction—malfunctions or the signal is disrupted before it makes its way through the heart muscle. Arrhythmias can also occur when another group of cells takes over the function of the sinus node. Arrhythmias can affect both the upper chambers, or atria, and the lower chambers, or ventricles.

Types of Arrhythmias

There are various types of arrhythmias, which range from benign to those that can have serious consequences. Symptoms of each type are similar, and can include palpitations, rapid irregular heart rate, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, lightheadedness and fainting. Any intense or persistent symptoms warrant medical attention.

Diagnosing Arrhythmias

Tests used to diagnose arrhythmias include:

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Treating Arrhythmias

Because arrhythmias usually cause few, if any, problems, they may not require treatment. However, when an arrhythmia causes symptoms, cardiologists may decide on one of the following options for treatment, based on the type of arrhythmia, the severity of symptoms and the presence of other medical conditions that can affect the course of the treatment.

Nutrition and Prevention

Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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