Health and Wellness

Arrhythmia | Irregular Heartbeat: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythms, occurs when there is a problem with the functioning of electric impulses that travel through the heart. Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of…

Cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythms, occurs when there is a problem with the functioning of electric impulses that travel through the heart. Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, affects about 1.6 million Indians annually. (Source)

While cardiac arrhythmia affects individuals regardless of age, early detection and treatment may restore the quality of life. Individuals may take it for granted initially, resting or speeding up the heart rate. An abnormal heartbeat for a long time may affect the daily life of an individual, leading to a possible cause of heart disease. Reading this article, you will learn about arrhythmia, its symptoms, and possible treatments. 

What is Arrhythmia? 

Arrhythmia occurs when the heart rhythm is abnormal, whether beating too fast, too slow, or irregularly. It happens when the electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat don’t function properly and can lead to mild to severe heart diseases. A normal heart rhythm is important as it supplies your body with nutrients and oxygen through the blood it pumps. 

How is Arrhythmia Different from Normal Health Conditions?

Arrhythmia is caused by disruptions in the heart's electrical system. Unlike a normal, steady heartbeat, which can be caused by exercise, medications, caffeine, or stimulations, arrhythmia can lead to symptoms like palpitations and dizziness. It requires special diagnosis and treatment, while a normal heart rhythm is regular and doesn't cause such issues.

What are the Types of Arrhythmia?

Different individuals may experience different symptoms, categorising it into the following types of arrhythmia: 


Fast heartbeat (heart rate > 100 beats a minute)

Atrial Fibrillation

Episodes of rapid, uncoordinated heartbeat due to chaotic heart signalling 

Atrial Flutter

More organised heartbeat than Atrial Fibrillation

Supraventricular Tachycardia

Episodes of a pounding heartbeat (start and stop suddenly)

Ventricular Fibrillation

Rapid and disorganised rhythm of the heartbeat

Ventricular Tachycardia

Rapid and irregular heart rate


Slow heartbeat (heart rate <  60 beats a minute)

Sick Sinus Syndrome

Heart rate switches between too slow and too fast

Conduction Block

Skipped beats or slowed heartbeats

What are Arrhythmia Symptoms?

In some cases, arrhythmia can be silent, which means a person can experience no symptoms at all. During the physical examination, the doctors may spot arrhythmia. However, the arrhythmia symptoms may include: 

  • Palpitations (experiencing skipped, fluttering, or racing heartbeat)
  • Pounding in chest
  • Dizziness/ feeling lightheaded
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Sweating or fainting
  • Anxiety
  • Blurry vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure

What are the Causes of Arrhythmia?

The following are the reasons that can cause irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) in individuals: 

  • Delay or blockage of the electrical signals
  • Changes or damage in the heart issues caused by changes in the blood flow
  • Excessive stress or strain 
  • The imbalance of fluids and electrolytes (such as sodium or potassium) in blood
  • Hormonal imbalance 
  • Natural pacemaker developing irregular rhythm
  • Another part of the heart controls the heartbeat
  • Heart disease
  • The healing process after heart surgery 
  • Infection or fever
  • Certain medications including, high blood pressure medicine
  • Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Issues with the thyroid glands
  • High blood pressure
  • COVID-19 infections
  • Sleep apnea
  • Coronary heart disease

What are the Risk Factors of Arrhythmia?

The risk factors that may cause irregularity in heartbeat (arrhythmia) are: 

Age: Older people have more chances of developing heart diseases, including arrhythmia. 

Inheritance: Your chances of arrhythmia are higher if any of your close family members have had the disease in the past. 

Lifestyle: Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs can lead the heart to beat faster, causing the risk of arrhythmia. 

Thyroid Disease: An overactive or underactive thyroid gland can raise the risk of irregular heartbeats. 

Coronary Artery Disease: Inherited or acquired heart diseases, like heart failure, heart attack, heart valve disease, etc.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure affects the heart wall, making it stiff and thick, which can fluctuate the electrical signals travelling through the heart. 

Previous Heart Surgery: Past heart surgeries or treatments related to heart diseases may lead to arrhythmia. 

Medical Conditions: Electrolyte imbalance, congenital heart defects, sleep apnea, autoimmune diseases, etc.

Diagnosis and Tests for Arrhythmia

If you are experiencing irregular heartbeats or any of the above-mentioned arrhythmia symptoms, your healthcare provider may start examining your problem with a physical exam. To find the root cause of the arrhythmia, the following tests may be conducted: 

EKG or ECG: An electrocardiogram is an instrument recording the electrical activity of your heart. The test is quick and painless. 

Holter Monitor: The portable EKG is a small digital camera-sized instrument that measures the movement of electrical signals or waves through your heart. 

Event Monitor: When the symptoms are not repeated, and last a few minutes, the healthcare provider may suggest you wear these for about a month. You can activate them when you experience a symptom and record the reading. 

Stress Test: The stress test examines the pressure that your heart can bear before experiencing irregular heartbeats. 

CT Scans and MRI: The healthcare provider may use imaging methods like CT scans and cardiac MRI to examine the structure of the heart chambers and assess the heart's functioning. They then determine whether there is any heart tissue damage or scar causing arrhythmia. 

Echocardiogram:  The healthcare providers use ultrasound to check your heart muscle and valves.

Electrophysiology Study: The healthcare provider records the electrical activity of your heart to assess the reason behind the irregularity of the heart rhythm. 

Head-up Tilt Table Test: Doctors use this test to check the reasons behind the difference in the heart rate and blood pressure. They tilt the body at different angles and determine whether the reasons for passing out are due to electrical, nervous, or vascular systems.

Complications Due to Arrhythmia

Based on the symptoms of arrhythmia, the following possible complications can develop in an individual: 

  • Blood clots 
  • Heart failure
  • Sudden cardiac death

Prevention Measures for Arrhythmia

An individual experiencing arrhythmia can make certain lifestyle changes to manage heart disease, including the following: 

  • Quit smoking
  • Diet low in salt and saturated fat
  • Limit caffeine 
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Make your daily life activity active by doing exercise or other activities
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce or manage stress
  • Control of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
  • Get a good amount of sleep

What are the Treatments for Arrhythmia?

The suitable treatment of arrhythmia depends upon whether it is initial stage or severe or a heart block. The healthcare professionals will analyse your condition to find the underlying causes and then suggest any of the following treatments for heart arrhythmia:

Suggested Procedures for Arrhythmia: 

  • Catheter Ablation: Treats the specific heart cells causing the abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Cardioversion: A procedure where precisely controlled electric shock is given to your heart to reset the heartbeat into normal rhythm. 

Medications for Arrhythmia: 

  • Your healthcare provider may recommend medications based on the type of arrhythmia, medical conditions, and medical history. 

Implanted Devices for Arrhythmia: 

  • Pacemakers: A small battery-powered device is inserted under the skin of the collarbone and connected to the heart. The pacemakers produce electric signals through thin and highly durable wires to do the work of the natural pacemaker and help the heart beat in a regular rhythm.
  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs): It is a device similar to a pacemaker that monitors your heartbeat and delivers an electrical pulse to the heart to reset the highly irregular heartbeat. 
  • Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT): It treats heart failure caused by dyssynchronous contractions of the heart chambers. 

Depending on the type and severity of the arrhythmia, you may experience mild or severe symptoms or not at all. Some may not require treatment, and others may require continuous medication and procedures. It’s important to see your healthcare provider if you notice any symptoms and diagnose the root cause behind them. 

However, the journey of gaining medical treatment can be overwhelming, last for certain months/ years, and can strain you financially. To ensure peace of mind and be financially prepared for such conditions, get insured with a comprehensive health insurance policy. 

Want to know which insurance policy should you select? Connect with our RenewBuy POSP Advisors to gain details and benefits covered under health insurance. 

* Disclaimer: The details, facts, or figures given here are intended solely for the reader's informational purposes and should not be relied upon for personal, medical, legal, or financial decisions. Please visit the insurer's website for the latest updates. We do not endorse any particular insurance company or insurance product provided by any insurer.


Question: What is an arrhythmia caused by?

Answer: Arrhythmia is caused by the irregular functioning of electrical impulses that travel through the heart. The possible causes can be coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, excessive alcohol or caffeine, smoking, certain medications, and congenital heart defects.

Question: Is irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) curable?

Answer: Harmless arrhythmia goes away on its own, and fatal arrhythmia needs consultation with the healthcare professional. After diagnosing the reasons, they can recommend possible required medications and therapies or surgeries. 

Question: How is arrhythmia diagnosed?

Answer: Arrhythmia is diagnosed using tests like an electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitor, event monitor, stress test, or electrophysiological study to detect irregular heart rhythms.

Question: Is arrhythmia life-threatening?

Answer: Some arrhythmias are benign and manageable, but others can be life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention. It's important to consult a doctor for proper evaluation and treatment.

Question: What is the difference between arrhythmia and a normal heartbeat?

Answer: A normal and steady heartbeat is typically 60-100 beats per minute at rest. Arrhythmia involves irregular heartbeats, which can be too fast, slow, or irregular.

Question: Can arrhythmia occur in a healthy person?

Answer: Yes, arrhythmia can occur in healthy individuals due to factors like stress, caffeine, alcohol, or electrolyte imbalances, but the reasons behind irregularities should be checked by a doctor.


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