What is Dysrhythmia?

Dysrhythmia is where your heartbeat is irregular. These variations can be normal without any complications while others may be life threatening 1, 9.

Normally your heart comprises of four chambers; the atria which are located in the upper chamber and the ventricles in the lower chambers. The heart ensures that these chambers are beating normally and in systematic manner.

Usually, your normal heartbeat begins from the right atrium when the pacemaker (sinoatrial node) transmits electrical signal in your heart.

This signal moves throughout the atria into the conduction system (atrioventricular node). The conduction system attaches to the fibers in the ventricles, which conducts the electrical signals and transmits the impulses to all the areas of the ventricles. 1


Your heart contracts when the impulses cross via it. This usually happens for nearly 60 to 100 times per 60 seconds or one minute. Each contraction of your heart represents a single heartbeat. Your atria are the first one to contract before the ventricles so that they have enough time to empty blood into the ventricles.


In normal conditions, most of your heart tissues are capable of initiating a heartbeat or becoming a sinoatrial node.

Dysrhythmia may occur when:

  • The sinoatrial node of your heart is faulty
  • A different part of your heart becomes a sinoatrial node
  • Blood flow to your ventricles through the conduction system is disrupted.


There are several dysrhythmias such as:

Premature ventricular contractions

Premature ventricular contractions refer to unusual and extra heartbeats that start from the ventricles. These excess beats interfere with the regular rhythm of your heart and can make you to feel missed beats in your chest. These contractions are very common and occur in people at some point in life. 2

Ventricular fibrillation

This is where the ventricles are not beating but instead quivering hence the heart cannot pump blood around your body. This can cause sudden death if no immediate medical attention is given to a person.


Bradycardia is where the heart beats rather slowly than normal. If your heart rate is below 60 per minute then it is considered slow. Bradycardia is most common in people who are more than the age of 65.This contraction can also be severe where your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body needs. 3

Atria flutter

This type of heart rate is very fast where the heart makes steady beats of 250- 350 per minute. 4


The heart rate is fast and is at least 100 beats per minute in adults. When the heartbeat is very fast, the heart may not pump blood effectively around your body.

This denies your organs blood and oxygen to function properly and can lead to serious complications. Tachycardia can also make you experience short breaths, pain in the chest and fainting. 5

Ventricular tachycardia

In ventricular tachycardia, the heart rate is very rapid and is usually higher than 150 beats per minute and it originates from your ventricles. Such a beat can lead to serious complications such as ventricular fibrillation when not treated.

Ventricular tachycardia contractions can also cause dizziness, pain in the chest, no impulses or weak pulse, fainting and shortness of breath. 6

Atria fibrillation

This is where the atria are not beating effectively but instead quiver. Atria fibrillation is the chief cause of stroke.

Sick sinus syndrome

Sick sinus syndrome is a cluster of heart rhythm problems caused by defective sinus node. These problems may include a very slow heartbeat also known as sinus bradycardia. Your heartbeat may pause also called sinus arrest. There may be some incidences of a fast heart rate.

Sick sinus syndrome is characterized by fluctuating heart rates; the rates vary between slow and fast. It can also cause fatigue, dizziness, fainting, pain in the chest, shortness of breath and confusion.


Dysrhythmia is caused by the following:

There are various diseases and conditions that affect your heart and can lead to dysrhythmia. They include:

Coronary artery diseases

Coronary artery diseases are diseases that cause your arteries to become narrow which affects supply of blood and oxygen in the body.

This disease can occur due to accumulation of fat in your arteries which constricts the arteries. As a result blood flow to the heart may stop or occur at slow rates. 7

Valve diseases

Your heart has four valves, which ensure that blood flows comfortably in the forward direction and there is no backward escape of blood. These valves are aortic valve, pulmonary valve, mitral valve and tricuspid valve. 8

There are some diseases that can narrow the valves which make your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body. These diseases are called valvular stenosis.

Other diseases may cause your valves not to shut properly and they are called valvular insufficiency. These diseases can affect one or all your valves.

Valve diseases can be caused from birth defects or acquired. Some examples of birth or congenital diseases are congenital valve disease. This disease affects your pulmonary or aortic valve.

The disease causes the valves to be of wrong size, poorly formed leaflets that are incorrectly joined to the annulus.

Acquired valve diseases affect the structure of your valves. These are diseases are caused by several infections and other diseases. Bacterial infections are common causes of heart diseases.

This occurs when bacteria enters your bloodstream into your heart, reproduces and attacks your heart valves creating holes in your valves that can lead to leakage of blood.

Other Causes

Other things that can result in dysrhythmia are such as:

  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Problems with your nervous system


Symptoms of dysrhythmia depend on its various types. Some people may have no symptoms while others may experience symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Faint
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath and even death.


Your doctor may check your dysrhythmia by using an electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram is a non-invasive test that your doctor uses to measure your heartbeat and determine if it’s regular or irregular.

Your doctor will put electrodes on your chest, arms or legs which is connected to a monitor to measure your heartbeat. The electrocardiogram will record all the information about the electrical signal from your heart.

If it is an unusual heartbeat, your doctor may use a holter electrocardiogram, which you will wear for 24 hours to help record your heart signal.


For abnormal heartbeat, your doctor may recommend use of energy powered device pacemaker to shock your heart back to normal. This device is implanted on the walls of your heart.

Your doctor can also prescribe medications such as antiarrhythmic to treat irregular heartbeat 9.

For a long lasting solution, you should exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet with low fat foods and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol 1.

Reference List

  1. Dysrhythmia. http://www.humanillnesses.com/original/Conj-Dys/Dysrhythmia.html
  2. Premature ventricular contractions. http://www.mayoclinic.org
  3. Bradycardia. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/bradycardia-slow-heart-rate-overview#1
  4. Atrial Flutter. http://www.hrsonline.org/Patient-Resources/Heart-Diseases-Disorders/Atrial-Flutter
  5. Tachycardia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tachycardia/symptoms-causes/dxc-20253873
  6. Ventricular Tachycardia. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/ventricular-tachycardia-topic-overview#1
  7. Coronary heart disease. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007115.htm
  8. Heart valve diseases. http://www.medicinenet.com/heart_valve_disease/article.htm
  9. Heart Disease and Abnormal Heart Rhythm (Arrhythmia). http://www.medicinenet.com/arrhythmia_irregular_heartbeat/page3.htm

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