Abnormal heart rhythm, or heart arrhythmia, refers to any form of deviation from the ordinary sequence of electrical impulses in the heart. The electrical impulses may occur too slowly, too fast, or erratically, and this causes the heart to beat at an abnormal rate. Arrhythmia results from a “short circuit” in the heart system, and it can be temporary or permanent.
It is not uncommon for people to have mild palpitations or extra heartbeats occasionally. Many people who have arrhythmia do not experience any heart-related problems, and they can lead healthy lives without having to undergo treatment. However, in some people, arrhythmia can be an indication of a serious underlying heart condition, such as coronary artery disease, congenital heart defects, or damaged heart valves, and it requires prompt medical attention.
If you are suffering from serious arrhythmia, your heart will not be able to pump blood effectively. As such, your brain, lungs, and other vital organs in your body will not receive the blood they need to function properly, and they may become damaged over time. Arrhythmia can also cause blood clots to form in your arteries and make you more susceptible to heart disease.
If it is left untreated for a long time, arrhythmia can lead to a life-threatening situation. If your heart is beating in an extremely fast and chaotic rhythm, and its lower chambers are quivering, it will not be able to pump any blood. This condition is called sudden cardiac arrest, and it is considered a medical emergency. In the United States alone, over 850,000 people are hospitalized because of arrhythmia every year.
Common symptoms of arrhythmia include pounding or fluttering in the chest, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fainting, and chest pain.