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Arrhythmias occur when there is a disruption in how the electrical signal develops or moves throughout the heart. Factors that can cause arrhythmias include:

  • The heart's natural pacemaker (sinoatrial node) develops an abnormal rate or rhythm.
  • Injury or illness makes it difficult or impossible for electrical signals to move through the heart. Injury or illness may occur due to:
  • Electrical stimulation arises from abnormal areas of the heart, other than the sinoatrial node.
  • Stimulants—Makes the heart beat faster even though there is no need.
  • Electrolyte abnormalities—Can increase or decrease the ability for muscles to contract and change ability of nerves to send signals.

External factors that are associated with arrhythmias include:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Illegal stimulants, such as cocaine and methedrine
  • Diet pills
  • Some over-the-counter medications, such as cough and cold medicines
  • Certain prescription medications, such as those that treat cardiovascular disease, asthma, depression, or thyroid disorders.

References:

Symptoms, diagnosis & monitoring of arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofArrhythmia/Symptoms-Diagnosis-Monitoring-of-Arrhythmia_UCM_002025_Article.jsp. Updated October 25, 2012. Accessed March 19, 2014.

Understanding your risk for arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/UnderstandYourRiskforArrhythmia/Understand-Your-Risk-for-Arrhythmia_UCM_002024_Article.jsp. Updated October 25, 2012. Accessed March 19, 2014.

What causes an arrhythmia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/causes.html. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed March 19, 2014.



Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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