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Pliro
Written by Pliro
Jul 4, 2019 Last updated: Jul 9, 2019
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Tachycardia by itself is not necessarily a disease, it’s a state in which the heart is beating fast. For an adult the normal heart rate should be around 60-100 beats/ minute, however, when this value rises to over 100 is that the person is considered to have tachycardia.

Types of Tachycardia 

There are physiological (normal) and pathological (abnormal) types of tachycardia.Sinus tachycardia (ST) is experienced by almost all of us when we feel anxious or stressed. Hence, ST is a completely normal response to certain common stimuli.

Atrial or supraventricular tachycardia , SVT is normally not much of a problem but it is potentially dangerous. Hence, this type of tachycardia is an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) which over time can lead to chronic damage and heart failure if untreated.  

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is also a type of arrhythmia. VT is directly associated with a great number of deaths due to cardiac failure (hundreds of thousands/ year in some developed countries). As a result, this pathology is commonly present in patients with some underlying cardiac condition and is characterized by inefficient circulation.

SVT and VT are types of arrhythmia defined by an abnormal behavior of particular regions of the heart. 

Common Causes

  • Anemia
  • Side effects of certain types of medication
  • Problems with the thyroid gland
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Abuse of recreational drugs
  • Smoking/ nicotine/ tobacco
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Congenital heart problems
  • Damaged heart tissue
  • Caffeine

Symptoms

Pathological tachycardia (SVT and VT) usually results in a very consistent group of symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations (rapid heartbeat)
  • Chest pains
  • Weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath

Treatment

  • Lifestyle changes: Drinking less coffee and alcohol, stop smoking and reduce stress.
  • Medication:
    • If fever is the primary cause: Acetaminophen and ibuprofen
    • Thyroid problems: methimazole
    • Cardiac arrhythmias: Lanoxin, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and  amiodarone.
    • Others: Verapamil, diltiazem, metoprolol, atenolol, sotalol, propafenone, amiodarone and warfarin.
  • Cardiac ablation: This procedure is used to create small scars in very specific damaged areas of the heart in order to restore a normal heart rate.
  • Pacemakers
  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators
  • Open heart surgery

Diagnosis

There are several methods for diagnosis:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Exercise stress test
  • Tilt table test
  • Holter monitors (a 24h surveillance system for your heart rate)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Magnetic resonance
  • Computerized tomography
  • Radiography

What Doctor Should You Go To?

As we already mentioned, tachycardia is not necessarily something you need to treat or diagnose, however, for pathological conditions you should visit your primary healthcare provider (usually a general practitioner) for initial testing, if your results show signs of some heart condition like tachycardia, you’ll be asked to consult an specialist, most likely a cardiologist.

For children, a pediatrician should be consulted first.

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