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What is Tachycardia?

Understanding Tachycardia causes, symptoms, risk factors and treatment options

DEFINITION

Tachycardia is a fast heart rate — more than 100 beats per minute — that can either start in the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles) or upper chambers (atria). At these elevated rates, the heart is not able to efficiently pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. This rapid heartbeat that may be regular or irregular, but is out of proportion to age and level of exertion or activity.

CAUSES

Tachycardia can occur for several reasons. Common causes of Tachycardia include:

  • Heart-related conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Poor blood supply to the heart muscle due to coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis), heart valve disease, heart failure, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), tumors, or infections
  • Other medical conditions such as thyroid disease, certain lung diseases, electrolyte imbalance, and alcohol or drug abuse
  • Emotional stress or drinking large amounts of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages

SYMPTOMS

When your heart is beating too fast, it may not pump enough blood to the rest of your body. This can starve your organs and tissues of oxygen and can cause the following tachycardia-related signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden weakness
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting

It is also possible for people with tachycardia to have no symptoms, and the condition is only discovered during a physical examination or with a heart-monitoring test called an electrocardiogram.

RISK FACTORS

Growing older or having a family history of tachycardia or other heart rhythm disorder makes you more likely to develop tachycardia. Any condition that puts a strain on the heart or damages heart tissue can increase your risk of tachycardia. Certain conditions can increase your risk of developing an abnormally fast heartbeat (tachycardia), including:

  • Coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis)
  • Heart failure (poor pumping heart)
  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Congenital heart defects (condition you are born with)
  • Inflammatory or degenerative heart conditions
  • Chronic lung disease

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Tachycardia can be ventricular (in the lower chambers of the heart) or atrial (in the upper chambers of the heart), and the treatment strategy may vary depending on what type of tachycardia one may have. Your heart doctor will determine the treatment that’s best for your condition, and may also discuss lifestyle changes with you.

The types of treatment range from medication to surgery. For thousands of people each year, an implantable defibrillator monitors the heart and delivers life-saving therapies to treat dangerously fast and slow heart rhythms. Other treatment options include:

VENTRICULAR TACHYCARDIA TREATMENTS

VENTRICULAR FIBRILLATION TREATMENTS

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

ATRIAL FLUTTER TREATMENTS

  • Medications

ATRIAL FIBRILLATION TREATMENTS

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

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