Tachycardia is a condition characterized by a rapid heartbeat. The rate of your heartbeat is not proportional to your activity or age in this state. The heartbeat may or may not be irregular. Sometimes tachycardia does not cause complications. However, if left untreated, it can lead to serious conditions such as heart failure, stroke, or even death. Therefore, it is vital to seek immediate treatment if you are diagnosed with tachycardia.
What is Tachycardia?
Tachycardia is a heart condition that indicates a rapid heart rate unrelated to your age or activity level. You may experience a heart rate of more than 100 bpm. It is normal for your heart rate to rise and fall. For example, when you perform a task that requires manual labor, such as lifting heavy objects, running, exercising, etc., you may experience an accelerated heart rate. However, with tachycardia, the spikes in heart rate are independent of your physiological state. This increase in heart rate leads to poor blood flow to all parts of your body, depriving them of oxygen.
What Are the Types of Tachycardia?
There are many types of tachycardia based on the part of the heart responsible for the condition. They are:
- Atrial fibrillation: This is the most common type of tachycardia and is caused by irregular electrical pulses in the atria (upper chambers of your heart).
- Atrial flutter: Irregular circuits in the atria cause rapid and weak contractions in the heart, leading to tachycardia.
- Supraventricular tachycardia: This type of tachycardia is caused by an irregular circuit and usually occurs above the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart). More often than not, this defect is present at birth.
- Ventricular Tachycardia: This condition is characterized by rapid heartbeats caused by abnormal electrical signals in the ventricles. This condition prevents your ventricles from pumping blood to the body. It usually only happens for a few seconds. When ventricular tachycardia lasts longer than a few seconds, it can become life-threatening.
- Ventricular fibrillation: Fast, chaotic electrical pulses in the ventricles can cause them to quiver instead of pumping blood to the body. This condition requires immediate medical attention as it poses a serious threat to your life. It usually occurs after a heart attack or traumatic episode.
What Are the Symptoms of Tachycardia?
Sometimes tachycardia exists without any symptoms and is not discovered until you have an EKG test. In most cases, tachycardia shows the following symptoms:
When to see a doctor?
If you see any of the above symptoms, search immediately medical care, Emergency symptoms include fainting, shortness of breath, and chest pain that lasts more than a minute. To avoid complications, get early diagnosis and treatment at Apollo Spectra Hospitals.
What Causes Tachycardia?
Tachycardia is usually caused by anything that interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, especially the electrical impulses. Some common causes are:
How can tachycardia be treated?
There are four main elements involved in the treatment of tachycardia. They slow the heart rate, prevent future episodes, reduce further complications, and treat the underlying disease.
- The heart rate is slowed by vagal maneuvers, medication, and cardioversion.
- Vagal maneuvers: A vagal maneuver is an activity that asks you to cough, lie on your back, or apply an ice pack to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve helps control your heart rate.
- medication: Antiarrhythmic drugs are given by injection to regulate your heart rate. These drugs also come in pills.
- cardioversion: In an emergency, a shock is sent to your heart through an automated external defibrillator, patches, or paddles to interact with the electrical pulses in your heart. It can help regulate your heart rate.
- Future episodes can be prevented as follows:
- Catheter ablation. This procedure is performed when an extra electrical pathway is responsible for an increased heart rate. The doctor will insert catheters into the neck, arm, or groin and guide them through your blood vessels to your heart. The electrodes at the ends of the catheter use radio frequency energy or extreme cold to damage (ablate) additional electrical pathways and prevent it from transmitting electrical signals.
- medicines: Taking antiarrhythmic drugs by mouth can prevent a fast heartbeat if taken regularly.
- pacemakers: Certain types of tachycardia can be treated with a pacemaker.
- Implantable cardioverter. If you are at risk of experiencing a life-threatening tachycardia episode, your treating physician may suggest an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).
- Surgery: In a maze procedure, the surgeon makes small cuts/incisions in the heart tissue to create a maze of scar tissue. Because scar tissue does not conduct electricity, it interferes with stray electrical impulses that cause some forms of tachycardia.
While tachycardia is a dangerous condition in its own right, it can be caused by an underlying condition that is even more dangerous. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have an underlying medical condition.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Does Tachycardia Feel Like?
Tachycardia can feel like strong and rapid electrical pulses in the side of your neck or a fast, fluttering sensation in your chest. At times you may feel uncomfortable, dizzy or short of breath.
At what heart rate should you call a doctor?
See a doctor if your heart rate is above 100 beats per minute. Seek immediate medical attention if it exceeds 120, especially if accompanied by chest pain and/or shortness of breath.
How can tachycardia be prevented?
The best way to prevent tachycardia is to prevent heart disease. You can do that by eating heart-healthy foods, exercising regularly, staying away from drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. If you already have heart disease, you can take steps to prevent tachycardia while being treated for the heart problem .