Arrhythmias are heartbeats that are too fast, too slow or have irregular rhythms. While some arrhythmias are harmless, others can potentially be dangerous— even deadly.
Arrhythmias can cause serious symptoms as they increase a person’s risk for complications—such as stroke, heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the Institutes of Health. Some arrhythmias can cause symptoms of dizziness, fainting and chest pain which needs to be evaluated by a doctor.
Common arrhythmia treatments include medicines, medical procedures and surgery.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to regulate your heartbeat as a first line defense. This group of medicine is called antiarrhythmics and they are used to slow a heart that beats too fast, speed up a too slow heartbeat that is too slow or convert an abnormal rhythm to a nice and easy, regular pace.
Beta Blockers are medicines used to slow a fast heart rate. If you have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of serious arrhythmia, your doctor may prescribe calcium channel blockers or digoxin and adenosine, to slow your heartbeat, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) says.
“People who have atrial fibrillation and other types of arrhythmias are often treated with anticoagulants, or blood thinners, to reduce the risk of blood clots forming. Aspirin, warfarin (, the generic name for Coumadin,) and heparin are commonly used blood thinners,” says Dr. Rodrigo C. Chan, a Mesa, Arizona physician specializing in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Medicine and Internal Medicine.
"Reducing the risk of blood clots is critical to preventing blockages of blood flow to the brain artery or heart that can cause strokes or heart failure,” he said. “It is important to always take these medicines as prescribed by your physician and promptly report any side effects or if your condition worsens.”
Some medicines are also used to control some underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease or a thyroid condition, which might be causing an arrhythmia in the first place.