The heart is controlled by electrical impulses that tell the heart when to send blood out to other parts of the body. When something goes wrong with the electrical system in the heart, it can cause problems that can range from minor to severe. Understanding the various electrical problems that can happen with the heart can help alleviate stress and provide knowledge.
The heart has an electrical system similar to a house system. The heart's electrical system tells the heart when to send blood throughout the body by using a heartbeat. The heart's electrical system includes a sinoatrial node, which is used by the heart as a pacemaker and triggers each heartbeat to begin. It also has an atrioventricular node, which acts as a bridge that connects the ventricles and the atria. This bridge provides the path for signals to travel down to the ventricles from the atria. The His Purkinje is a system that is responsible for carrying the electrical signal throughout all of the heart's four ventricles.
Whenever the S-A node element of the heart does not send out the correct number of signals, another part of the heart will attempt to take over and act as the body's naturally produced pacemaker. When this occurs, the paths of electrical signals become interrupted, causing an arrhythmia. Slow arrhythmias are caused when the heartbeat is too slow. It is called bradycardia. A fast arrhythmia is when the heart beats to quickly. It is called tachycardia.
When the arrhythmia begins in the upper areas of the heart's chambers, it is called atrial fibrillation. According to the Mayo Clinic, atrial fibrillation is not usually in itself life-threatening, but it is considered a medical emergency as it can cause stroke, heart attack and other serious, life-threatening events to occur.
Treatment for arrhythmias include medication and lifestyle changes (eliminating caffeine and alcohol from the diet). If these measures don't work, there is a surgical procedure called ablation that destroys the tissue of the heart where the atrial fibrillation is getting triggered from.
Sick Sinus Syndrome
Sick Sinus Syndrome is diagnosed when the body's natural pacemaker fails to work properly and creates a group of symptoms by making the heart alternate between heartbeats that are too slow and too fast. Treatment for this condition is usually to surgically implant a pacemaker that can regulate the heart rhythm.
Seek medical advice for any heart-related issue. Even if you have been diagnosed and treated for a previous electrical problem with your heart, it is important to report new, changing or worsening symptoms to your physician.