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An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm. Your heart is controlled by a conduction system which sends out electrical impulses. This causes a heartbeat. Arrhythmias are caused by a problem in this conduction system, which can make your heartbeat too slowly, too quickly, or in an irregular way. 


There are different types of arrhythmia, the most common are: 

  • Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular, often fast heart rhythm.

  • Supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a very fast heart rhythm. Most SVTs are due to one or more extra electrical pathways between the atria and the ventricles.

  • Atrial flutter is usually a fast heart rhythm where the atria contract at a very fast rate compared to the ventricles. This can cause the atria to beat extremely fast, sometimes up to 300 beats per minute (bpm). 

What are the symptoms of an arrhythmia?


The symptoms you have depend on what type of arrhythmia you have. The most common symptoms include:

  • Palpitations (a thumping or fluttering sensation in your chest)

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling as if you may ‘black out’

  • Breathlessness

  • Chest discomfort

  • Feeling tired.

What causes an Arrhythmia?


Some abnormal heart rhythms can be caused by inherited conditions, such as Long QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, CPVT (Catecholaminergic Polymorphic VT) and PCCD (Progressive Cardiac Conduction Defect). 

If this is the case for you, your doctor will talk to you about having family members tested. Although this can be scary, it can help them know if they need treatment now or in the future.

Some underlying conditions which could cause an arrhythmias are:

• A Heart Attack

• Heart Failure

• Cardiomyopathy

• Coronary Heart Disease

How is an Arrhythmia diagnosed?


Your GP or other healthcare professional might refer you for tests including:

  • An ECG (Electrocardiogram)

  • An Electrophysiological (EP) study.

How is an Arrhythmia treated?

Your treatment will depend on your type of arrhythmia. Common treatments include:


• Medication

• Cardioversion 

• Catheter ablation

• Inserting an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker

More information:

For more information about Arrhythmias, you can find guides about Arrhythmias by the British Heart Foundation or the NHS.

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