Dysrhythmia vs arrhythmia – some people wonder what are the differences between them. In fact, they are synonyms of the same condition – a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat caused by changes in the heart’s normal sequence of electrical impulses.
According to statistics, 25 percent of adult people in the United States over the age of 40 could develop an irregular heartbeat.
In the United Kingdom, arrhythmias are experienced by about 2 million people every year.
A normal heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Note – professional athletes commonly have a resting heart rate of under 60 beats a minute since their hearts are very efficient.
- problems with the conduction of the electrical impulse – connections from the atria (there are two atria in the human heart that receive blood) to the ventricles are hindered;
- problems with initiating the electrical signal – this happens either due to a competing impulse elsewhere in the heart or the sinus node fires abnormally.
A number of factors can cause the heart to work incorrectly and they include:
- structural changes of the heart;
- alcohol abuse;
- some medications;
- some herbal treatments;
- drug abuse;
- some dietary supplements, especially those high in caffeine;
- excessive coffee consumption;
- smoking tobacco and second-hand smoking;
- scarring of the heart, commonly the result of a heart attack;
- coronary artery disease, the leading cause of death in the US;
- electrolyte imbalance in your blood – an imbalance of minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium, can alter the way the heart conducts electricity;
- obstructive sleep apnea – this condition can cause certain types of arrhythmia;
- diabetes – blood glucose levels influence heart rates. This condition also increases the risk of heart disease and hypertension;
- thyroid problems – depending on whether the thyroid is under- or overactive, it may cause the heart to beat too slowly or too quickly;
- changes in your heart muscle;
- genetics – some individuals have heart abnormalities from birth;
- injury from a heart attack (more than 1 million people in the United States have a heart attack every year);
- advancing age – increased age significantly raises the chance for heart damage;
- the healing process after heart surgery;
- high blood pressure – it may alter the electrical pathways and change the structure of the heart;
- valvular heart diseases – these conditions are called pulmonic stenosis, mitral stenosis, tricuspid stenosis, or aortic stenosis;
- emotional stress – it can make the heart work harder and raise blood pressure.
Many arrhythmias are asymptomatic and do not require treatment. However, when symptoms occur, they may include:
- chest tightness;
- chest pain;
- shortness of breath;
- excessive sweating;
- pounding in the chest;
- palpitations – a feeling of skipped heartbeats;
Arrhythmias are commonly classified in the following way:
Ventricular tachycardia – it is a rapid, regular heartbeat that originates from a site in one of the ventricles instead of the sinus node in the right atrium.
Bradycardia – these are slow heart rhythms, that may be due to disease in the heart’s electrical system. When the condition occurs, you may feel like you are going to pass out.
Ventricular fibrillation – it is a rare, rapid, and disorganized rhythm of heartbeats which rapidly leads to loss of consciousness.
Long QT syndrome. – it may cause potentially dangerous arrhythmias and sudden death. Some medical conditions, like congenital heart defects, may cause the syndrome. Doctors can treat this syndrome with devices called defibrillators or medications.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – it occurs when an extra electrical pathway disturbs the timing of the heartbeat.
Premature atrial contractions – these are early extra beats which arise in the atria. They do not require medical treatment.
Atrial fibrillation – it is the most common type of arrhythmias and occurs when the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal. African Americans are less likely than those of European descent to have the condition. An estimated 6 million Americans have Afib. In the US, it is estimated that the number of adults with atrial fibrillation will more than double by the year 2050. A 2013 study revealed that about 34 million people worldwide have the condition.
You are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation if you have:
- a family history of atrial fibrillation;
- high blood pressure;
- heart failure;
- heart defects;
- coronary heart disease;
- sleep apnea;
- kidney disease;
- lung disease;
- diabetes or metabolic syndrome;
- rheumatic heart disease.
Atrial flutter – it is a type of arrhythmia that is very similar to AFib. Its main distinction is that it has a regular contraction cycle. Atrial flutter is very uncommon.
When your healthcare provider checks you for heart rhythm disorders, he will give you a physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and run a few tests.
Tests may include:
Implantable loop recorder – this device is implanted under the skin in the chest area and detects abnormal heart rhythms.
Echocardiogram – during this test, a hand-held device is placed on your chest and uses sound waves to produce images of the heart structure, size, and motion.
Event monitor – this lets your healthcare provider check your heart rhythm at the time of your symptoms. It is a portable device that is attached to your body and you will press a button when you have any symptoms.
Holter monitor – it is another portable device that can be worn for a day to record your heart’s activity.
Electrocardiogram – an ECG measures the timing and duration of each electrical phase in the heartbeat.
While most arrhythmias respond to drug therapy, you may need to try a few medications to find which is best for you. Common drugs that are used for the treatment of arrhythmias include:
Drugs used to treat related conditions which may be causing an abnormal heart rhythm.
Antiplatelet or anticoagulant therapy – it includes medications like warfarin or aspirin, that reduce the risk of strokes or the formation of blood clots.
Heart-rate control medications – they are used to control the heart-rate.
Anti-arrhythmic medications – they are used to convert the arrhythmia to sinus rhythm or to prevent an arrhythmia.
Dysrhythmia vs Arrhythmia – Differences
Cardiac arrhythmia and cardiac dysrhythmia both describe the same condition (just using different words) that occurs when the electrical signals to the heart which coordinate heartbeats are not working correctly.