Tachycardia is a disorder characterized by a rapid heart rate. The speed of your heartbeat is not proportional to your activity or age in this condition. The heart rate may or may not be irregular. Sometimes, tachycardia may not cause complications. However, if you leave it untreated, it could lead to severe situations 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 cardiac condition that indicates a fast heart rate with no connection to your age or state of activity. You can experience a heart rate above 100 bpm. It is normal for your heart rate to rise and fall. For instance, when you perform a task that requires manual labor, such as lifting heavy objects, running, exercising, etc., you can experience an increase in heart rate. However, in tachycardia, the peaks in heart rate are independent of your physiological state. This increase in heart rate leads to poor transmission of blood to all parts of your body, starving 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 due to irregular electric pulses in the atria (upper chambers of your heart).
- Atrial flutter: Irregular circuitry within the atria causes rapid and weak contractions in the heart, leading to tachycardia.
- Supraventricular tachycardia: This type of tachycardia is caused by irregular circuitry 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 occurs only for a few seconds. When ventricular tachycardia extends beyond a few seconds, it could become life-threatening.
- Ventricular fibrillation: Rapid, chaotic electrical pulses in the ventricles can cause them to quiver instead of pumping blood to the body. This condition calls for immediate medical attention as it poses a severe threat to your life. It usually occurs after a heart attack or a traumatic episode.
What are the Symptoms of Tachycardia?
Sometimes, tachycardia exists without any symptoms and gets discovered only when you undergo an ECG test. In most cases, tachycardia exhibits the following symptoms:
When to Consult a Doctor?
If you see any of the symptoms above, seek immediate medical attention. Emergency symptoms are 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 typicallyis caused by anything that interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, especially the electrical impulses. Some common causes are:
- Heart diseases
- Sudden stress
- Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- Use of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and meth
- Caffeinated beverages and alcohol
- High or low blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
How Can Tachycardia be Treated?
There are four key elements involved in treating tachycardia. They are- slowing the heart rate, preventing future episodes, reducing further complications, and treating the underlying disease.
- The heart rate gets slowed down by vagal maneuvers, medication, and cardioversion.
- Vagal maneuvers: A vagal maneuver is an activity where you get asked to cough, lie on your back or apply an ice pack to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve helps control your heartbeat.
- Medication: Antiarrhythmic drugs are given via an injection to regulate your heartbeat. These drugs also come in pills.
- Cardioversion: In emergencies, a shock is sent to your heart via an automated external defibrillator, patches, or paddles to interact with the electric pulses in your heart. It can help regulate your heartbeat.
- Future episodes can get prevented by the following :
- Catheter ablation. This procedure is done when an extra electrical pathway is responsible for an increased heart rate. The doctor inserts catheters into the neck, arm or groin, and guides them through your blood vessels to your heart. The electrodes at the tips of the catheter use radiofrequency energy or extreme cold to damage (ablate) extra electrical pathway and prevent it from sending electrical signals.
- Medications: Taking anti-arrhythmic medications by mouth might prevent a fast heart rate when they are taken regularly.
- Pacemaker: Certain types of tachycardias may be treated with a pacemaker
- Implantable cardioverter. If you are at the risk of having a life-threatening tachycardia episode, your treating physicain 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. As scar tissue does not conduct electricity, it interferes with stray electrical impulses that cause some types of tachycardia.
While tachycardia is a dangerous condition on its own, it can be caused by an underlying condition that is even more dangerous. It is important to seek immediate medical care 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 racing, fluttery feeling in your chest. Sometimes, you might feel uncomfortable, dizzy, or short of breath.
At what heart rate should you call a doctor?
Visit a doctor if your heart rate is above 100bpm. Seek immediate medical attention if it is above 120, especially if it gets accompanied by chest pain and/or shortness of breath.
How can tachycardia be prevented?
The best way of preventing tachycardia is to prevent a heart diseases. You can do that by eating heart-healthy foods, exercising regularly, staying away from drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. If you are already having heart disease, you may take steps to prevent tachycardia while getting treatment for the cardiac problem.