Tachycardia – Causes, Types, Symptoms, and When to Seek Emergency Room
Tachycardia is the medical term for a heart rate over 100 beats a minute. Many types of irregular heart rhythms can cause tachycardia. Most healthy people have resting heart rates of 60 to 100 beats per minute, but this can vary according to a person’s physical condition and age.
A fast heart rate isn't always a concern. For instance, the heart rate typically rises during exercise or as a response to stress. In severe cases, the heart may beat as many as 400 times per minute, which can prevent the heart from effectively pumping blood throughout the body.
Tachycardia may not cause any symptoms or complications. But if left untreated, some forms of tachycardia can lead to serious health problems, including heart failure, stroke or sudden cardiac death.
If you suspect Tachycardia, you should visit the emergency room immediately.
What is Tachycardia?
When you have tachycardia, your heart beats faster than normal for a few seconds to a few hours. Normally, your heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute when you’re not active. When your heart beats more than 100 times a minute at rest, that’s tachycardia.
Because your heart beats too often, it doesn’t have the time it needs to fill with blood between beats. This can be dangerous if your heart can’t supply all of your cells with the blood and oxygen they need.
Causes of Tachycardia
Tachycardia occurs when something interferes with the electrical impulses that control the heart’s pumping action. The pulse may still be at regular intervals, but those intervals will be closer together.
Many things can cause Tachycardia, including:
- Heart disease
- Congenital heart defects
- High blood pressure
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Recreational drug abuse
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Certain lung diseases
In minor cases of Tachycardia, you may not need treatment or medication. However, if your condition is causing your heart to work inefficiently, you may notice that you feel fatigued, experience chest pressure, or become breathless. This means that your body is not receiving the oxygenated blood that it needs to function properly.
Types of Tachycardia
There are many different types of tachycardia. Sinus tachycardia refers to a typical increase in the heart rate often caused by exercise or stress. Other types of tachycardia are grouped according to the part of the heart responsible for the fast heart rate and the cause.
Common types of tachycardia caused by irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) include:
- Atrial fibrillation (A-fib). This is the most common type of tachycardia. Chaotic, irregular electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart (atria) cause a fast heartbeat. A-fib may be temporary, but some episodes won't end unless treated.
- Atrial flutter. Atrial flutter is similar to A-fib, but heartbeats are more organized. Episodes of atrial flutter may go away themselves or may require treatment. People who have atrial flutter also often have atrial fibrillation at other times.
- Ventricular tachycardia. This type of arrhythmia starts in the lower heart chambers (ventricles). The rapid heart rate doesn't allow the ventricles to fill and squeeze (contract) to pump enough blood to the body. Ventricular tachycardia episodes may be brief and last only a couple of seconds without causing harm. But episodes lasting more than a few seconds can be life-threatening.
- Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). Supraventricular tachycardia is a broad term that includes arrhythmias that start above the ventricles. Supraventricular tachycardia causes episodes of a pounding heartbeat (palpitations) that begin and end abruptly.
- Ventricular fibrillation. Rapid, chaotic electrical signals cause the ventricles to quiver instead of contracting in a coordinated way. This serious problem can lead to death if the heart rhythm isn't restored within minutes. Most people who have ventricular fibrillation have an underlying heart disease or have experienced serious trauma, such as being struck by lightning.
When to Visit Emergency Room for Tachycardia Treatment
Most people experience occasional bouts of heart palpitations, and these alone should not be a cause for concern. However, if you think that Tachycardia is causing dizziness, fatigue, or tightness in your chest, go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Keep an eye out for these telling symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Heart failure
- Extremely fast heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heart beat
If you experience unusual heart rate, please visit one of our closest emergency rooms. Our ERs are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your emergency room needs and health concerns, and we have all of the equipment necessary to diagnose and treat most medical conditions. Our board-certified physicians will get you taken care of within the comforts of our fully-stocked facility.
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