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Arrhythmia – When Heart Skips a Beat

Missing a heat beat here and there or occasional irregularity in heart beat is acceptable but it can be a matter of serious concern if one experiences a significant variation in heart beat more often. Read on to find out what all can make the heart rhythm become irregular.

What is arrhythmia or irregular heart beat?

Pumping of the heart is based on a conduction system and when anything goes wrong with the heart’s electrical system, the heart does not happen to beat regularly. This irregular beating of the heart results in a rhythm disorder known as arrhythmia.

Before you panic and start counting each and every pulse of yours, understand that not all the extra beats or occasional skipping of them is alarming. It can happen due to exercise, anxiety, or even intense emotional outburst.

How it feels like?

Usually the patients of arrhythmia present with phrases like “suddenly my heart started pounding in my chest”, “my heart skipped a beat” or “my heart began racing fast”.

Symptoms of Arrhythmia

The patient can experience several of the below symptoms

  • Pounding, thumping or fluttering in the chest
  • Feeling of uneasiness and discomfort
  • Heartbeat might feel like a “strong pulse” in the neck
  • Giddiness, light headedness, even unconsciousness
  • Weakness, tiredness and sweating

Causes of Arrhythmia: There can be several factors which can induce it, like

  • Injury caused in the arteries after heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease – atherosclerosis
  • Imbalances of electrolyte like sodium and potassium in the blood
  • Diabetes and blood pressure
  • Consumption of alcohol, caffeine or smoking
  • Consumption of diet pills or drugs
  • Stress
  • It can be present by birth as a congenital defect

Diagnosis of Arrhythmia

Irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias are hard to diagnose, especially the ones which causes symptoms in low grade. The final diagnosis can be reached based upon some of the following tests which the physician finds relevant for the pateint,

  • Family history
  • Physical examination – Pulse, BP, or swelling in the legs
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), Stress test
  • Holter and event monitors and implantable loop recorder
  • Blood tests, Chest X-ray
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Electrophysiology study
  • Head-up tilt table test

Treatment of Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia should not be taken lightly. They need immediate medical attention to restore a normal rhythm. Although some people with arrhythmias require no treatment at all.

For others, treatment can include medication, lifestyle changes and other medical procedures.


Antiarrhythmic drugs are prescribed to control heart rate and beta-blockers are also given
Medical procedures:

  • Electrical “shock” therapy – defibrillation or cardioversion
  • Implanting a temporary pacemaker to manage the arrhythmia
  • Cardiac ablation to destruct areas in the heart that may be causing the abnormal rhythm
  • Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD) – An implantable cardiac defibrillator is placed in patietnse who are at high risk of sudden cardiac death

Living with arrhythmia

Some arrhythmias are harmless. People continue to live a healthy life for years with them. Living with arrhythmia is simple and manageable by keeping in mind and following,

  • Learn to take pulse
  • Follow a healthy and balanced diet
  • Try to stay away from strong emotional stress or anger
  • Stay away from stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and cough and cold medicines
  • Quit smoking
  • On feeling dizzy, lie down immediately