Conditions We Treat
What We Treat
The heart has its own electrical system that makes the signals that start each heartbeat. The heartbeat begins in one of the two upper chambers of the heart (atria). Problems in the electrical system of the heart can make the atria beat very fast and unevenly. This is called atrial fibrillation (AFib).
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Causes of atrial fibrillation include previous heart attack, high blood pressure, or thyroid problems. In many cases, the cause is unknown.
The atria may beat fast only once in a while. This is called a paroxysmal heart rhythm problem. If they beat fast all the time, it is a chronic problem.
The atria beat so fast and unevenly that they may quiver instead of contracting. If the atria don’t contract, they don’t move enough blood into the two lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). This can cause you to feel dizzy or weak.
Blood that doesn’t keep moving can pool and form clots in the atria. These clots can move into other parts of the body and cause serious problems such as a stroke.
Symptoms of AFib include the following:
- Palpitations (a fluttering, fast heartbeat)
- Weakness or tiredness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting spells
With atrial flutter, electrical signals travel around and around inside the atria. These circling signals make the atria beat too fast and evenly.
Atrial flutter can cause symptoms similar to AFib. It can also lead to the even faster, uneven rhythms of AFib.
Bradycardia is an abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia in which the heart beats too slow, usually measured as a resting heart rate lower than 60 beats per minute.
Cardiomyopathy is a problem with the muscle tissue that makes up your heart.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. It happens when the heart thins and enlarges. As a result, your heart may not be pumping as well as it should.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is less common and is a condition that affects the way the heart muscle works. The heart muscle grows thicker and stiffer than normal, especially in the walls of the left ventricle and septum. This makes it hard for the heart to pump blood properly. As a result, it can be difficult to do activities that were once easy for you.
Common symptoms of cardiomyopathy include:
- Shortness of breath, especially when you exert yourself.
- Unexplained tiredness.
- Chest pain.
- Fluid buildup in the lungs. You may need extra pillows to help you breathe when you lie down.
- Fluid retention resulting in swollen feet or ankles or unexplained weight gain.
- Heart skipping beats, fluttering, or thumping.
- Fainting, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
A heart block is a disease in the electrical system of the heart in which there is a blockage in the electrical system that controls the beating of your heart. Heart block can cause can cause lightheadedness, syncope (fainting), and palpitations.
Heart palpitations are an abnormal heartbeat that ranges from often unnoticed skipped beats or accelerated heartrate to very noticeable changes accompanied by dizziness or difficulty breathing.
Heart palpitations are not uncommon and nearly everyone experiences an occasional awareness of their heart beating or weak chest. When palpitations occure frequently it can be a sign or a more serious problem.
Palpitations that occure along with other symptoms, including sweating, faintness, frequent headaches, chest pain or dizziness, indicate irregular or poor heart function and should be investigated.
Supraventricular tachycardia is any rapid heart rhythm originating above or outside the ventricular tissue. Supraventricular tachycardia is most commonly due to a loop of electrical current in the heart, which as it loops, causes the heart to beat quickly.
Symptoms can come on suddenly and may go away without treatment. Stress, exercise, and emotion can all result in a normal or physiological increase in heart rate, but can also, though more rarely, cause supraventricular tachycardia. The rapid beating of the heart during supraventricular tachycardia can make the heart a less-effective pump, decreasing cardiac output and blood pressure.
The following symptoms are typical with a rapid pulse of 150–270 or more beats per minute:
- Pounding heart
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of consciousness (in serious cases)
Syncope is fainting or a blackout caused by a drop in blood pressure. If your blood pressure drops too low, your brain may not get enough oxygen-rich blood. Your body responds by losing consciousness briefly. You also slump or fall down.
A heart problem can decrease the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches the brain. Heart trouble can be serious and may even be fatal if left untreated.
- A Slow Heart Rate: Electrical signals tell the chambers of the heart when to pump. But the signals may be slowed or blocked (heart block) as they travel on the heart’s pathways. This can be caused by aging, scarred heart tissue, or damage from heart disease. When the heart rate slows, not enough blood is pumped.
- A Fast Heart Rate: Certain problems can make the heart race. For instance, after a heart attack, abnormal electrical signals may be created. These signals can make the heart suddenly beat very fast. The heart pumps before the chambers can fill with blood. So less blood reaches the brain and other parts of the body. Illegal drugs, certain medications, heart disease, or an inherited condition can also cause this.
- A Heart Valve Problem: Blood travels through the chambers of the heart as it is pumped. Heart valves open and close to help move blood in the right direction. But a valve may not open or close fully, if it’s hardened or scarred. As a result, less blood is pumped through the heart to the brain and body.
Ventricular tachycardia is a serious arrythmia in which a fast heart rhythm originates in one of the ventricles of the heart and occures when too many electrical signals make the heart beat very fast.
With ventricular tachycardia, abnormal electrical pathways or circuits form in the ventricles. This usually occurs in a part of the heart that’s damaged by a heart attack or heart disease.
Electrical signals enter the abnormal circuit and loop around. With each loop, the signal tells the ventricles to contract and makes the heart beat very fast.