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Cardiac Arrhythmias - Heart Rhythm Problems

What You Need to Know about Heart Rhythm Disorders

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Updated October 25, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

It's with you your entire life, yet you probably don't notice it much: your heartbeat. When normal, the heartbeat is nice and regular, and has just the right rate. But when things aren't quite right -- when the heartbeat is too fast or too slow, or just too irregular -- it's known as a cardiac arrhythmia (heart rhythm problem), which is among the most common of the heart disorders.

Most people, in fact, have occasional cardiac arrhythmias. The significance of cardiac arrhythmias can vary tremendously. Many arrhythmias are completely benign and inconsequential, while others are extremely dangerous and life-threatening. Here you will find an overview on heart rhythm problems, including the types of heart arrhythmias, the symptoms they cause, how they are evaluated, and how they are treated.

The Basics: The Heart's Normal Electrical System

You might find it useful to begin with a review of the normal electrical system of the heart, which regulates the heart rate and heart rhythm.

The Various Types of Cardiac Arrhythmias

While there are many types of cardiac arrhythmias, they can be divided into four general groups, which you can read about here:

 

Symptoms of Cardiac Arrhythmias

Despite the fact that there are many different cardiac arrhythmias, the symptoms caused by these arrhythmias generally fall into only four major categories. Follow the links to learn more about these symptoms, and what kinds of arrhythmias may cause them.

 

Diagnosing and Evaluating Cardiac Arrhythmias

Diagnosing a heart rhythm problem generally requires "capturing" its electrical signal on an electrocardiogram (ECG). Read here about diagnosing cardiac arrhythmias.

 

Treating Cardiac Arrhythmias

Just as there are many types of heart rhythm problems, many treatment options are available. Deciding which treatment to use for which arrhythmia can be challenging even for cardiologists. The most common options for treating cardiac arrhythmias include:

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