Arrhythmia

The heart pumps blood around the body with every heartbeat. An arrhythmia is extra or skipped heartbeats that interrupt the normal rhythm of your heart. Find out what you can do to recognise arrhythmias.

An arrhythmia is a type of problem with how your heart beats. 

Every heartbeat is triggered and controlled by an electrical signal (impulse) from the SA node in your heart. As an electrical signal moves through, down and across your heart muscle it triggers the heart muscle to contract. This allows blood to be pumped out of your heart and through your body. Find out more about how your hearts electrical conduction system works.

Types of arrhythmia

There are several main types of arrhythmias or heart rhythm problems: ​

  • Fast heartbeat (tachyarrhythmia) 
  • Slow heartbeat (bradyarrhythmia)
  • Irregular heartbeat (most commonly this is atrial fibrillation)

People with healthy hearts may have minor, harmless heart rhythm disturbances from time to time. 

Arrhythmias can be caused by:

  • heart disease
  • damage to the heart's electrical conduction system
  • congenital heart defects.

Some people have no symptoms of arrhythmia, while others experience symptoms like:

  • Skipped heart beats
  • A "fluttering" or pounding feeling in the chest, sometimes described as heart palpitations
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Periodic weakness
  • Fainting or sudden loss of consciousness.

Please talk to your doctor or nurse if you experience any of these symptoms.

Your heart rate is a measure of the number of your heart's electrical signals or heartbeats per minute. You can work out your heart rate by taking your pulse - each throb that you feel is a heartbeat.

Sometimes you might be asked by your doctor to have a heart test to help diagnose whether or not you have an arrhythmia: 

  • Electrocardiograph (ECG)
  • 24 hour ECG
  • Echocardiogram (Echo)
  • Electrophysiological Study (EP study).

After diagnosis, you will work with your doctor to develop a management plan that is right for you. This plan will depend on what sort of arrhythmia you have and the symptoms you experience, but it may include medication, surgery, and/or an implantable device like a pacemaker.

There are things you can do to manage your heart condition and live well with an arrhythmia.

Sometimes a pacemaker may be used to help correct an arrhythmia. 

Find out when a pacemaker can help