There are so many factors that make up the human heart’s working and health. One of them is the heartbeat or rate, which helps pump blood throughout the body, in a steady rhythm. Read more, to learn about a rare malfunction event that affects the heartbeat pattern.
Heart conditions and illnesses have serious and possibly life-threatening consequences on an individual’s health. The quality of human life can be comprised severely with most heart-related health issues. But there are some conditions which are not harmful but rather alarming in nature and occurrence. One such disorder is atrial tachycardia, a rare type of irregular or abnormal heartbeat rhythm pattern. In this article, learn about the heart’s internal structure and how this disorder can disturb its working.
The Human Heart
The heart is essentially a muscle, connected to various parts of the body with veins and arteries. It has to pump blood with force, for blood has to reach all parts of the body uniformly. So the walls of the heart contract or beat to produce a pumping motion. The internal structure of the heart consists of atria and ventricles, in all a 4-chamber structure. The upper and smaller chambers are the left atrium and right atrium (plural:atria). The lower and larger chambers are the left and right ventricles.
Blood flows in a downward direction, from the atria to the ventricles. The ventricle then pumps blood to the lungs and the body respectively. Blood from the right atrium has no oxygen and arrives from the veins. The right atrium transports the blood to the right ventricle, which pumps it to into the lungs. The left atrium on the other hand, collects oxygen rich blood and transports it to the left ventricle which pumps it to various parts of the body.
Keep in mind, that the atria are the entry points for blood to get into the heart and collect, while ventricles are the exit points from where blood is pushed out of the heart. This allows for a circular cycle of blood flow. A very delicate balance exists between the rate of flow in the atria and ventricles, to allow for correct functioning of the heart.
What is Atrial Tachycardia?
Electrical impulses or current encourages the heart to pump blood. And such impulses come from the sinoatrial node or the SA node. This node is actually tissue found in the right atrium wall and acts as the heart’s pacemaker. But in some cases, the impulse comes from another tissue area within the atria, clashing in rhythm with the SA node’s impulse. Due to 2 impulses, the atria start to fluctuate on their own and the heart begins to pump erratically. A noticeable difference is the atrial muscles quiver or tremble due to the extra impulse, instead of pulsing normally. With such behavior, the heart beats an approximate 200-300 times per minute.
The causes of atrial tachycardia are diverse and very difficult to pinpoint. Some noted reasons for this irregular rhythms are:
- Congenital defects which are inherited
- Diseased or weakened heart muscles
- Alcohol or drug after-effects from over intoxication
- Certain other medical conditions (lung diseases, asthma, gland issues)
- Some medicines and heart surgery
Even an individual with a completely normal and healthy heart structure can suffer from this condition. Two classifications of this sort of arrhythmia (abnormal heart pattern) are:
Multifocal Atrial Tachycardia
In this form, the atria sends multiple signals or impulses at the same time, causing the heart to start beating rapidly. This erratic heart rate causes blood flow to malfunction, with irregular amounts of blood being sent to different parts of the body. Elderly and senior citizens are more prone to this condition.
Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia
The concept of the too many impulses remains the same but this condition occurs once in a while, all of a sudden and then stops. While it is not as dangerous as regular or continuous atrial tachycardia, it is very frightening for the victim, as the heart can suddenly accelerate and then slow down abruptly.
Symptoms and Complications
Symptoms vary in intensity and occurrence. The following are some signs of this type of arrhythmia:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain or tightness
- You can feel your rapid heart rate (palpitations)
- Pounding noise in ears
- Feeling a racing and weird flopping sensation in your chest
- Suddenly feeling tired
- Cannot exercise or move for some time
In some patients, especially with children it is difficult to describe or elucidate the above symptoms and hence the tachycardia can pass unnoticed. Older patients being prone to such conditions, can ignore or not notice such symptoms. Young adults and middle-aged people can clearly notice the difference in heart rate behavior and are more alert to any such occurrences.
Atrial Tachycardia is quite rare and not life-threatening on its own. But the increased heart pace, if it is continuous, can weaken the heart muscle and render it more vulnerable to other diseases or decrease its strength. If diagnosed and treated in time, the condition’s harm can be eliminated. An approximate 5-15% of tachycardia cases are atrial in nature.
Diagnosing this condition is done solely through an ECG or EKG (Electrocardiogram). Treatment options include prescribing anti-arrhythmic medication to control or prevent the disruptive symptoms. A thorough examination of medical history and current physical health needs to be carried out, in case the tachycardia is a symptom of some hidden heart condition. This sort of heart anomaly is mostly annoying and disturbing in the absence of any serious heart illness.