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What is Sick Sinus Syndrome : Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Complications, Living with Sick Sinus Syndrome

What is Sick Sinus Syndrome?

Sick sinus syndrome is the name given to a group of disorders that may lead to malfunctioning of the sinus node. The Sinus node is known as the pacemaker of the heart that releases electrical impulses for the normal rhythm of the heart, which is known as sinus rhythm. In the absence of correct electrical impulses, the heart is not able to beat correctly.

People with sick sinus syndrome suffer from either a slow heart rate, which is also known as bradycardia, or from faster heart rate also known as tachycardia. This type of heart condition can develop at any age but is found to occur more in people above 68 years.(1)

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What Causes Sick Sinus Syndrome?

The sinus node starts to thicken as a person ages. This disrupts the electrical impulses. This is the most common cause of sick sinus syndrome.(2)

Health conditions that can cause damage to the sinus node include:

  • Congenital anomalies
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmias
  • Infiltrative diseases of the heart
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The Sinus node can also be damaged during heart surgery. Medications including beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin can also affect the sinus node.

Symptoms of Sick Sinus Syndrome

Sick sinus syndrome can lead to the following symptoms:

Initially, people with sick sinus syndrome may not develop any symptoms. Symptoms start developing with the reduced amount of blood flow as the organs no longer get enough oxygen.

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People with tachycardia may also experience palpitations, worsening symptoms of angina, and congestive heart failure.

Complications of Sick Sinus Syndrome

People with sick sinus syndrome may need to get a permanent pacemaker implant as there is no cure for it. Pacemaker implantation has the following risks associated with it.

  • Blood clots
  • Collapsed lung
  • Infection

Diagnosis and Treatment of Sick Sinus Syndrome

To diagnose sick sinus syndrome, the following tests may be ordered by medical professionals.

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  • Electrocardiogram to detect the heart’s rhythm.
  • Remote cardiac monitoring is a test in which a device is placed that monitors heart activity in 24 hours.
  • Electrophysiologic study is performed by a specialized cardiologist in which tiny electrodes are inserted through the vein into the heart using a catheter to diagnose specific arrhythmias.
  • Heart ultrasound can be helpful in assessing cardiac functions and structures.

After identifying the cause of sick sinus syndrome, the best treatment option is determined by the doctor.

If a person is taking calcium channel blockers or beta blockers, they are advised to be stopped as they may affect the sinus node.

A pacemaker may be recommended by the doctors if bradycardia is the symptom. It may play the role of the sinus node and prevent bradycardia.

Living with Sick Sinus Syndrome

Mostly sick sinus syndrome occurs as the person age. There is not much, people can do to prevent it from occurring. However, there are a few tips that can be helpful in reducing the risk of developing heart problems. These include:(3)

Controlling blood pressure can be helpful in reducing the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and pregnancy complications.(4)

When to Contact Doctor

People with a habit of smoking, low levels of physical activity, a family history of heart disease, and high blood pressure and diabetes should have a consultation with a doctor regarding the risk of heart disease.

Also, it is important to seek emergency medical care in case of the following symptoms:(5)

Sick sinus syndrome may progress over years and may not necessarily produce symptoms. There may be complications and a person may experience hypotension or fainting feeling. The outlook for sick sinus syndrome is good and pacemaker implantation may be helpful in controlling symptoms.(6)

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