An arrhythmia is a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. A heartbeat that is too fast is called tachycardia. A heartbeat that is too slow is called bradycardia. Most arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be serious or even life threatening. When the heart rate is too slow, too fast, or irregular, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart, and other organs.
Many arrhythmias cause no signs or symptoms. When signs or symptoms are present, the most common ones are:
Palpitations (a feeling that your heart has skipped a beat or is beating too hard)
A slow heartbeat
An irregular heartbeat
Feeling of pauses between heartbeats
More serious signs and symptoms include:
Dizziness and light-headedness
Fainting or nearly fainting
Shortness of breath
Usually the first test used to diagnose an arrhythmia is an EKG (electrocardiogram). Arrhythmias can be treated with medicines, medical procedures (for example, electrical energy delivered to the heart), and surgery. Serious arrhythmias can often be successfully treated. Most people with arrhythmias are able to live normal lives.