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Heart arrhythmias

Heart arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats. Normally you don't feel your heartbeat, so if you notice your heart is beating too fast or slow, this may be concerning. Some heart arrhythmias are serious, while others are not.

What are heart arrhythmias?

Arrhythmia is a heart condition where your heart beats irregularly. It is caused by a problem with the electrical signals that coordinate heartbeats. The heart can beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly (faster and then slower over a period of time).

Some people with heart arrhythmias have coronary heart disease underlying the problem. Some don't.

Learn more about the heart.

Types of heart arrhythmias

Premature (extra) beats are the most common. Some heart diseases can cause premature beats, but most of the time they are harmless. Premature beats can happen because of stress, exertion from exercise, caffeine or nicotine.

Supraventricular arrhythmias are fast and often irregular heartbeats. The most common form is atrial fibrillation, where the top two chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating normally so the heart doesn't pump blood as effectively.

Ventricular arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats that start in the lower part of the heart. These are more serious and require medical attention.

Bradyarrhythmias are where the heartbeat is too slow. In some cases, this may make a person feel dizzy and lose consciousness.

Heart arrhythmia symptoms

Many people with heart arrhythmias have no symptoms at all. But you might feel:

  • like your heart is skipping a beat
  • like your heart is beating too hard or fast, which is known as having palpitations
  • a racing heartbeat
  • a slow heartbeat
  • an irregular heartbeat.

If you think you might have an arrhythmia, see your doctor.

You should call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if you feel your heart is beating in an unusual way and you:

Heart arrhythmia diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you have a heart arrhythmia they may recommend the following tests:

  • A stress test that measures the capacity of the heart during exercise.
  • A tilt table test if you have symptoms of fainting which measures changes in your heart rate with a change in position from lying down to standing up.
  • Electrophysiology studies that look at the electrical conduction of your heart.

Treatment for arrhythmias

Treatment for arrhythmias varies widely depending on which arrhythmia you have, your age and your other medical conditions. Your doctor will take these into consideration when recommending treatment. Many arrhythmias are harmless and no treatment is required.

If treatment is recommended, options can include:

  • medication (for example beta-blocker medicines are sometimes used to control heart rate)
  • implantable devices (such as a pacemaker which can assist with a slow heart rate)
  • surgical ablation (as is sometimes used to treat atrial fibrillation).

The goals of treatment sometimes include:

  • to control the heart rate and keep the heart from beating too fast or too slow
  • to prevent blood clots forming and thereby help prevent a stroke
  • to re-establish the normal rhythm of the heart (if possible).
  • to treat any underlying medical problem that may be contributing to the arrhythmia.

Last reviewed: December 2015

Need more information?

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Found 86 results

Arrhythmia | myVMC

Arrhythmia is a condition characterised by the hearts failure to contract or beat at the correct time

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Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)

Arrhythmia is when you have an abnormal heart rhythm and heart palpitations are an awareness of your heartbeat.

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Atrial fibrillation - arrhythmia | The Heart Foundation

The Heart Foundation saves lives and improves health through funding world-class cardiovascular research, guidelines for health professionals, informing the public and assisting people with cardiovascular disease

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Arrhythmias | The Heart Foundation

The Heart Foundation saves lives and improves health through funding world-class cardiovascular research, guidelines for health professionals, informing the public and assisting people with cardiovascular disease

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is one of a number of disorders commonly referred to as arrhythmias, where your heart does not beat normally.

Read more on WA Health website

Heartbeat -

The heartbeat is usually a regular rhythm, but when disturbed it becomes irregular and is felt as palpitations. Find out about extra beats and arrhythmias and when to visit the doctor.

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Amiodarone | myVMC

Amiodarone is a Class III antiarrhythmic agent used to treat severe tachycardia arrhythmias including atrial flutter and ventricular fibrillation.

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Heart conditions - atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of arrhythmia, which means that the heart beats in an irregular fashion. This is caused by a distortion of electrical messages that control the steady rhythm of the heart, which we know as the ‘heartbeat’.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Ventricular Arrythmias (VT, Ventricular fibrillation VF) | myVMC

Ventricular Arrythmia (VA) is a severely abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that, unless treated immediately, causes death

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Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS, Bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome) | myVMC

Sick sinus syndrome is a group of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) presumably caused by malfunction of the sinus node, the hearts natural pacemaker

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