Tachycardia is a type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) in which the heart beats much faster than it should while a person is at rest. Typically, more that 100 beats per minute at rest is considered tachycardia. Electrical signals in the heart initiate each heartbeat. Problems with these signals can cause the heart beat to be erratic (unpredictable), and in the case of tachycardia, cause the heart to beat faster.
What does Tachycardia feel like?
Most people experiencing tachycardia feel the rapidness of their heart beat. When the tachycardia is happening, the heart is not operating efficiently and therefore the body is deprived of oxygen and symptoms such as lightheadedness, weakness, dizziness, chest pain, confusion and even fainting can also be experienced.
A higher than normal heart rate can produce different types of issues in the heart including:
- Atrial Fibrillation- heart beat is not only faster than normal, but also irregular.
- Atrial Flutter- heartbeat is faster than normal but regular.
- Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)- heart beat is faster and caused by the signals above the ventricles.
- Ventricular tachycardia- heartbeat is faster than normal, caused by the signals in the ventricles.
Who is at risk for Tachycardia?
Damage to the heart muscle or valves due to heart disease or congenital heart abnormalities or an overstraining of the heart from things like exercise or fever puts you at greater risk for developing tachycardia. Other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, stress or anxiety are also risk factors. Age and family history play a role, as well as lifestyle choices such as smoking, drug use or excessive use of caffeine or alcohol.
How is Tachycardia diagnosed?
There are various tests used to diagnose all types of tachycardia including:
- Holter/Event Monitor
- Tilt Table Test
- Electrophysiology (EP) Study
- T-Wave Alternans
- Implantable Recording Device
How is Tachycardia treated?
Depending on an individual’s unique medical situation, sometimes tachycardia can be treated with medications designed simply to slow the heart rate down. If the condition is more complex or long term, heart procedures such as cardiac ablation, insertion of a pacemaker or an ICD (Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) or surgery may be a better option.