Irregular heart rhythms which develop when special group of cells (sinus node) in right atrium of heart do not function properly; these cells distribute electrical signals to other electrical relay points in heart, causing four chambers of heart to contract in correct sequence. Malfunction of sinus node can occur if brain overrides heart's own pacemaking mechanism, or if heart is damaged, by coronary artery disease or (see Rheumatic Fever for example). It can also occur in unfit people taking unaccustomed, strenuous exercise.
Uncoordinated twitching of muscle fibres in ventricles: can cause cardiac arrest; if person suddenly and inexplicably loses consciousness, stops breathing, and has no pulse, contact Emergency Medical Services and commence cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (see First Aid).
Beating of ventricles uncoordinated with beating of atria: may be mild or severe (Stokes Adams attack); third-degree heart block causes sudden loss of consciousness, often with Fits. Appropriate action is to contact Emergency Medical Services and give cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (see First Aid).
Atria of heart beat much faster than ventricles: may produce symptoms such as breathlessness, (see Dizziness, Palpitations, Fainting, and chest pain similar to Angina, but it is not instantly life-threatening; it may lead, however, to Heart Failure or to atrial embolism, so appropriate action is consult your doctor if there is not improvement in 2 hours.
Sudden doubling of heart rate, lasting minutes or even days: causes a pounding feeling in chest, breathlessness, and sometimes chest pain and Fainting; condition slightly increases risk of congestive Heart Failure, but is not usually serious; however, symptoms should be reported to your medical doctor.
Heart occasionally misses a beat or gains an extra beat: may be alarming, but are usually nothing to worry about; caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol may be the culprits.
For some arrythmias, medical doctor may prescribe anti-arrythmic drugs; in other cases anticoagulant drugs or beta blockers may be appropriate; sometimes normal heart rhythm can be restored by electrical shock treatment; in complete heart block, implantation of an artificial pacemaker may be necessary. Where Anxiety is a major factor, constitutional homeopathic treatment is recommended.
Specific remedies to be taken every 2 minutes for up to 10 doses when palpitations come on, provided there is no fainting or loss of consciousness, if no improvement within 30 minutes, call medical doctor
- Difficult breathing, relieved by lying on right side with head well raised, shuddering of whole body, person cannot bear to be touched Spigelia 30c
- Anginal pain and violent palpitations, made worse by lying on left side, person has atherosclerosis Cactus 30c
- Sensation of blood surging up into head, pulse irregular but forceful, angina pain, fear of dying Naja 30c
- Whole body pulsating, angina pain extending into right arm, warm room makes symptoms worse Lilium 30c
- Pulse loud but irregular, palpitations, feeling of heaviness and pressure in heart region, with occasional sharp, stinging pains passing from front to back, symptoms made worse by laughing, coughing, or slightest exertion Iberis 30c
Self-help: Avoid tea, coffee, alcohol, and smoking, all of which interfere with heart rhythm. If you suffer from high anxiety levels, learn some form of meditation or relaxation; moderate daily exercise can also help to disperse anxiety.
If your medical doctor has diagnosed paroxysmal tachycardia, try holding your breath, slowly drinking water, or bathing your face in cold water as soon as palpitations start; alternatively, pinch your nostrils together and try to blow through your nose - if you do this hard enough, your eardrums will pop.