Tachycardia is a condition of the heart characterized by an abnormal rise in the heart rate more than normal while at rest. This condition is marked by heart rate elevated above 100 beats per minute. Both physiological and pathological reasons can be behind tachycardia. Tachycardia sometimes shows no symptoms or complications. But if it is not treated properly, it may result in abnormal functioning of heart or serious complications such as heart failure, stroke or cardiac arrest or death.
What are the Main Causes of Tachycardia?
Tachycardia disease has faster heart rate than normal over 100 heartbeats per minute. In tachycardia, the heart chambers, upper or lower or both beat faster than normal and the heart has to put extra effort to pump blood, thus blood supply is compromised to the rest of the body and even to the heart itself. Tachycardia is caused when the electric supply to the heart chambers is disrupted from SA node, heart’s pacemaker.
Tachycardia can occur due to physiological or pathological reasons. Physiological causes can be exercise, pregnancy, anxiety, illness or excitement i.e. shock, fear or extreme joy.
The pathological causes of tachycardia are-
- Heart diseases- coronary heart diseases, heart valve disease, infections and tumors in heart, heart failure, heart attack
- Abnormalities in the heart present since birth
- Lifestyle factors- consumption of alcohol, cocaine, other drugs and smoking
- Hypertensive disease
- Reaction to certain medicines
- Imbalances caused by electrolyte
- Some lung diseases like bacterial pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Wolff-Parkinson white syndrome
Tachycardia is categorized into following types according to origin and cause of abnormally fast heartbeat-
Atrial Fibrillation: The electrical impulses that originate from upper chambers of the heart i.e. atria result in rapid, irregular and weak contractions of the atrium leading to increased heart rate. Atrial fibrillation is the commonest type that is caused due to structural abnormalities of the heart, heart valve diseases, hyperthyroidism or heavy alcohol abuse.
Atrial Flutter: Rapid heartbeat in atrial flutter is caused by irregular circuit inside the atria. In atrial flutter, heartbeats are very fast at a regular rate. However, the episodes of atrial flutter settle by itself without treatment in most of the cases.
Supraventricular Tachycardia: When there is a sudden and abrupt rise in heartbeat more than normal, then the condition is known as supraventricular tachycardia. It arises above the ventricles due to abnormal electric circuits in the heart. This circuit is created from the birth in the form of overlapping signals.
Ventricular Tachycardia: The abnormal electric signals generated in the ventricles of the heart lead to rapid heart rate. This condition is termed as ventricular tachycardia. In this condition, ventricles cannot work efficiently to pump enough blood to the rest of the body due to rapid heart rates. This may last in a couple of seconds. But it may prove fatal and life-threatening if these episodes last more than few seconds.
Ventricular Fibrillation: Ventricular fibrillation is caused by rapid electrical impulses generated in the lower chambers of the heart. In this condition, ventricles have to put extra efforts to supply blood and still it cannot supply sufficient blood to the whole body. If the heart does not get back to its normal rhythm within few minutes even with an electric shock, then the condition of the patient becomes more fatal. The main causes of ventricular fibrillation are any underlying heart disease, or serious trauma, or lightning, or a heart attack.
The underlying heart disease, hypertension, hyperthyroid, and other causes discussed above can lead to tachycardia. It should be managed properly in time to avoid life-threatening complications.
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