Symptoms of Tachycardia

Tachycardia is a medical term used for a heart rate over 100 beats per minute. There are several heart rhythm disorders, such as arrhythmias, that can cause Tachycardia.

In some cases, it’s normal for your heart to beat faster than usual. For example, it’s normal for your heart to beat faster when you exercise or as a response to trauma, stress, or illness. However, in Tachycardia, your heart beats faster than usual due to conditions unrelated to physical activity or everyday psychological stress. 

In some instances, Tachycardia causes no symptoms at all. But if left untreated, it can disrupt your regular heart function, leading to severe complications, including:

Various treatments, including drugs, surgery, or medical procedures, can help control your rapid heart rate or help manage other health conditions that may lead to Tachycardia. 

Symptoms of Tachycardia

Types Of Tachycardia

There are many different types of Tachycardia. They are classified based on the part of the heart responsible for fast heart rate and cause an unusually fast heartbeat. Following are some of the most common types of Tachycardia:

  • Atrial Fibrillation: This is the most common type of Tachycardia that can disrupt the normal flow of blood. This interruption puts you at serious risk for blood clots and stroke. With atrial fibrillation, the upper two chambers of your heart are affected. This interrupts the blood flow to the lower chambers or ventricles and then throughout the rest of your body. If left untreated, atrial fibrillation could be deadly. It may come or go, or maybe permanent. It’s commonly seen in adults over the age of 65 years. With proper medical help, you can lead an everyday life with this condition. 
  • Atrial Flutter: In this type of Tachycardia, the heart’s atria beat fast but at a regular rate. The rapid rate causes contractions of the atria. Atrial flutter is caused due to regular circuitry within the atria. Episodes of atrial flutter may go away on their own or may demand treatment. People who have atrial flutter can have atrial fibrillation also in some cases. 
  • Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT): SVT is an abnormally fast rhythm that starts somewhere above the lower chambers of the heart. It is known to be the most common heart rhythm disorder in children and youngsters. Most people first experience it between the ages of 25 and 40 years. An episode of SVT may last from a few minutes to several hours. It is generally not serious, but in rare cases, it can lead to unconsciousness and cardiac arrest.
  • Ventricular Tachycardia: It refers to a rapid heart rate that starts with abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). It's caused due to abnormal circuitry in the heart that is often present at birth and elicits a loop of overlapping signals.
  • Ventricular Fibrillation: Ventricular fibrillation occurs when fast, chaotic electrical impulses prompt the ventricles to quiver instead of pumping blood to the body. This could be deadly if the heart isn't returned to a normal rhythm within minutes with an electric shock to the heart (defibrillation).

What Are The Symptoms Of Tachycardia?

When your heart beats too fast, it may not pump sufficient blood to rest parts of your body. This can cause your organs and tissues to starve, causing some of the following symptoms of Tachycardia:

  • Chest pain
  • A fast pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Heart palpitations
  • A loss of consciousness
  • Sudden weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cardiac arrest, in some cases

However, some people experience no symptoms of Tachycardia, and their condition is discovered only during a physical examination or with a heart monitoring test such as an electrocardiogram.

What Causes Tachycardia?

Causes of Tachycardia include anything that disrupts the normal electrical impulses that control the rate of your heart's pumping action. Some common causes of Tachycardia are listed below:

  • Anemia
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Consuming too many caffeinated beverages
  • Exercise
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Medication side effects
  • Use of stimulant drugs, like cocaine or methamphetamine
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Sudden stress, such as fright
  • Electrolyte imbalance; the mineral-related substances required for conducting electrical impulses

In some instances, the exact cause of Tachycardia can’t be diagnosed.

Possible Complications Of Tachycardia

The risk of complications depends upon a wide range of factors, including:

  • The type of Tachycardia
  • The severity and duration of Tachycardia
  • The overall health of the patient
  • Any other heart-related problems they may have

The most common tachycardia complications include:

  • Blood Clots: Blood clots can significantly raise your odds for heart attack or stroke.
  • Fainting: When you have a rapid heart rate due to Tachycardia, you may lose consciousness, which elevates the risk of a fall or other accidents. 
  • Heart Failure: Tachycardia, when left untreated, can make your heart weaker, increasing the risk of heart failure. 
  • Sudden Death: This generally occurs in people with ventricular fibrillation.

Also Read: Ultimate Guide To Congestive Heart Failure

How Is Tachycardia Diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, review your medical history, conduct a physical examination, and order certain tests to rule out the possibility of other possible conditions, and confirm the diagnosis of Tachycardia. Some diagnostic tests your doctor can recommend are:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): It is one of the most common tools used to diagnose Tachycardia. ECG is a painless test that detects and records your heart’s electrical activity using small sensors (electrodes) attached to your arms and chest. ECG records the strength and timing of your electrical signals as they travel through your heart. Your doctor can scrutinize the signal patterns to determine the type of Tachycardia you have and the problems in the heart that are causing a fast heart rate. 
  • Echocardiogram: It uses sound waves to produce a moving picture of your heart. It can identify abnormal heart valves, areas of inadequate blood flow, and the heart muscles that aren’t functioning correctly.
  • Blood Test: Blood tests help to determine whether thyroid or other problems are contributing to Tachycardia. 
  • Graded Exercise Test: This test can help identify how physical activity affects your heart rhythms. 
  • Wearable Devices: You can carry a Holter monitor or event recorder. These devices help monitor heart rhythms or electrical impulses. 

How Is Tachycardia Treated?

Tachycardia can be atrial (in the upper chambers of the heart) or ventricle (in the lower chambers of the heart), and the treatment plan may vary depending upon the type of Tachycardia you have. Your doctor will determine the best treatment and also suggest specific lifestyle changes to make. Treatment of Tachycardia ranges from medications to surgery. Other treatment options include:

Atrial Fibrillation Treatments

  • Medications
  • Cardiac catheter ablation
  • Cardioversion
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Surgery

Atrial Flutter Treatments

  • Medications

Ventricular Tachycardia Treatments

  • Medications
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Automatic external defibrillator (AED)

Ventricular Fibrillation Treatments

  • Medications
  • External defibrillation
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)