Arrhythmias Abnormal Heartbeats
Some people who have abnormal heartbeats may not even be aware of them. Awareness of heartbeats (called palpitations) varies widely among people. Some people can feel normal heartbeats, and most people can feel heartbeats when they lie on their left side. Arrhythmias have consequences that range from harmless to life threatening. The seriousness of an arrhythmia may not be closely linked with the severity of the symptoms it causes. Often, the nature and severity of the underlying heart disease are more important than the arrhythmia itself.
Some life-threatening arrhythmias cause no symptoms. Otherwise inconsequential arrhythmias can cause severe symptoms. When arrhythmias impair the personís heart's ability to pump blood, they can produce weakness, a reduced capacity for exercise, light-headedness, dizziness, and fainting. Fainting occurs when the heart is pumping so inefficiently, it can no longer maintain enough blood pressure. If such an arrhythmia persists, death may be a direct result.
Arrhythmias may also aggravate the symptoms of underlying heart disease, including chest pain and shortness of breath. Arrhythmias that produce symptoms require prompt attention. Often, a person's description of symptoms can help doctors make a preliminary diagnosis, determining the severity of the arrhythmia. The most important considerations are whether the palpitations are fast or slow, regular or irregular. If the palpitations are brief or prolonged? Whether or not the arrhythmia itself produces symptoms? Doctors also need to know whether the palpitations occur. At rest or only during strenuous or unusual activity, whether they start and stop suddenly or gradually. However, certain diagnostic procedures are often needed to determine the exact nature of the arrhythmia and its cause People with suspected life-threatening arrhythmias are usually hospitalized. Their heart rhythm is continuously recorded and displayed on a television-type monitor by the bedside or nursing station. Thus, any problems can be identified promptly.
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