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Heart conditions: Understanding Tachycardia

Tachycardia is a medical condition where a person’s heart rate is abnormally fast. According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, Tachycardia is a rapid beating of the heart, conventionally applied to rates of over 90 beats per minute. Tachycardia may be dangerous, depending on how fast the heart is beating and how hard it has to work. But, what causes Tachycardia and how is it treated?

Causes of Tachycardia

The human heart rate is controlled by electrical signals that are sent through the heart tissues. When the heart sends out rapid electrical signals across the heart tissues, tachycardia occurs. It is not clear what triggers the heart to produce rapid electrical signals, but when rapid electrical signals are sent and tachycardia occurs, the lower and or upper chambers of the heart begin to beat significantly fast than normal.

Accelerated heart rates cause the heart to pump blood irregularly to the rest of the body. This results in increased demand for oxygen in the body and even parts of the heart itself like the myocardium or heart muscle. If tachycardia persists, there is a sudden increase in the risk of cardiac arrest or even death.

Signs and symptoms of tachycardia

Tachycardia affects body tissues and organs by depriving them oxygen. Signs of the medical condition can be easily detected by a medical doctor, but symptoms of the condition are only felt by the patient. Common signs and symptoms of tachycardia you should look out for and report to your doctor include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (uncomfortable racing pulse sensation)
  • Chest pains
  • Lightheadedness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness, and in some cases
  • Fainting.

Treatment for tachycardia

Treatment options for tachycardia vary, depending on the patient’s general health, age and predisposing factors like smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and a history of congenital heart abnormalities. Some medical drug prescriptions may also trigger tachycardia. Treatment involves slowing down the higher-than-normal heart rate, reducing risk factors and preventing subsequent episodes.

Sometimes treating the cause of tachycardia itself is the cure, such as treating an overactive thyroid gland in the case of hyperthyroidism. If the cause of a tachycardia episode is unknown, the doctor will try different therapies to bring the condition under control.

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