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Understanding Heart Arrhythmia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Put briefly, a heart arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that happens when there are cardiac irregularities, i.e. the electrical signals that are responsible for telling the heart to bead stop working properly. When this happens, the heart might beat too slow or too fast, or follow an inconsistent heartbeat pattern.

In addition, although some heart arrhythmias are pretty much harmless, others are considered to be life-threatening. Therefore, we’ve come up with this article to help you understand heart arrhythmia, as well as raise arrhythmia awareness.

Heart Arrhythmia Symptoms

Did you know that a heart arrhythmia doesn’t always cause symptoms? In this case, an irregular heartbeat might be noticed during a regular health checkup or one done for another reason. On the other hand, when arrhythmia does cause symptoms, you may experience:

  • A fast heartbeat
  • A slow heartbeat
  • A fluttering or pounding feeling in your chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness

So, if you want to preserve your cardiovascular health, ensure you see your healthcare provider as soon as you notice any of the above-listed symptoms. If there’s something to worry about and your doctor confirms you have an irregular heartbeat, you will then be referred to see a cardiologist.

Heart Arrhythmia Causes

In general, certain health conditions and lifestyle choices can affect the way the electrical signals travel through the heart and cause an irregular heartbeat. These may include:

  • A heart attack
  • Scarring from a heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease (blocked heart arteries)
  • Heart structure changes, like from cardiomyopathy
  • High blood pressure
  • COVID-19 infection
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid gland disorders
  • Genetics
  • Certain medicines, like those for treating allergies and colds
  • Alcohol or caffeine overconsumption
  • Drug misuse or use of illegal drugs
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Smoking

Heart Arrhythmia Treatment

Heart arrhythmia treatment options may vary depending on whether you have a fast or slow heartbeat. What’s more, some arrhythmias won’t even require any medical treatment, but regular checkups only. Still, if your arrhythmia causes extreme symptoms or increases the risk of a more serious cardiovascular health issue, treatment is needed. Heart arrhythmia treatment options include medication, therapies, procedures, or surgery.

Medication

Depending on the type of arrhythmia you suffer from and the potential complications, your doctor may prescribe different medications. For instance, if you have tachycardia (a heart rate over 100 beats a minute) you should take medicine that will help you control the heart rate and rhythm. Similarly, if you suffer from atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular and often fast heart rhythm, you may have to take blood thinners to prevent blood clots.

Therapies

Furthermore, some of the heart arrhythmia treatment options include some special actions, such as vagal maneuvers or cardioversion. Vagal maneuvers help you slow down a fast heart rate and include coughing, bearing down, and applying an ice pack on the face. Next, cardioversion includes the application of patches on the chest through which an electrical shock to the heart is given to help it reset its rhythm.

Surgery or Other Procedures

 

Last but not least, if medicine and therapy aren’t enough to help you with your cardiovascular health, managing arrhythmia might require certain procedures or surgery. These may include catheter ablation, pacemaker, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, maze procedure, or coronary bypass graft surgery.

Final Thoughts

As already noted, a heart arrhythmia may be trivial, but it may also be life-threatening. Hence, make sure you do regular health checkups to ensure optimal cardiovascular health.

Prader-Willi Syndrome and Sleep: Unraveling the Connection

Did you know that people with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) often experience sleep issues? Indeed, about 57% of individuals with PWS have some type of sleep-disordered breathing before starting their growth hormone therapy. The most common issue is excessive daytime sleepiness, often caused by sleep apnea which is a sleep disorder characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep that disturb the quality and efficiency of sleep.

Prader-Willi Syndrome

Overview

Prader-Willi syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that occurs in approximately one out of every 15,000 births. This disorder affects a child’s metabolism. And, it results in body and behavior changes and can also cause delays in childhood milestones and puberty

Children with PWS have extremely low muscle tone and poor feeding during early infancy, but then, between 2 and 6 years of age, they develop an immense appetite and don’t feel full after meals. As a result, these children develop severe obesity if their excessive eating isn’t managed.

Symptoms

Although PWS affects every individual differently, there are some common symptoms that appear in infancy, including:

  • Weak cry
  • Tiredness
  • Poor feeding
  • Weak muscle tone

Other symptoms might affect the body of a child which can be present at birth but become more noticeable later on as the child grows. These might include:

  • Long and narrow head
  • Almond-shaped eyes
  • Triangular mouth
  • Small hands
  • Small feet
  • Short height
  • Underdeveloped genitals

Plus, some symptoms might affect a child’s behavior and development can also occur, including:

  • Temper tantrums
  • Intellectual disability
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating challenges

Causes

A majority of PWS cases, nearly 70%, are caused by a deletion in one region of the father’s chromosome 15. As a result, several genes lose their function which cannot be made up for by the corresponding mother’s genes on chromosome 15 as they are always inactive.

Furthermore, another cause of this change to chromosome 15 gene might be maternal uniparental disomy which makes up about 25% of PWS cases. This occurs when a child inherits two maternal copies of chromosome 15, and none from their father.

Thirdly, translocation is responsible for less than 1% of PWS cases. This happens when a piece of chromosome 15 relocates to another chromosome. Hence, the chromosome produces genes that work ineffectively since they aren’t in the right place.

Prader-Willi Syndrome and Sleep

As already mentioned, PWS patients frequently experience sleep issues and they most commonly experience excessive daytime sleepiness. For example, sleep apnea leads to fatigue and daytime sleepiness as a result of poor sleep quality and quantity. Similarly, obstructive sleep apnea leads to increased body mass index, i.e. obesity.

In addition, many PWS patients experience oxygen desaturations caused by these apneas, i.e. breathing interruptions. Therefore, people with this genetic syndrome typically undergo sleep studies to check the occurrence of apnea and measure oxygen desaturation.

Moreover, as a result of hypothalamic dysfunction, PWS patients have inherited sleep/wake cycle abnormalities. Namely, they go through more sleep cycles and more REM periods per night, yet the overall amount of REM sleep is decreased which also leads to extreme daytime sleepiness.

Finally, apart from sleep apnea, narcolepsy is yet another sleep disorder affecting individuals with PWS. This disorder affects the cycles of sleep and results in fragmented sleep and intrusion of REM sleep into wakefulness.

Last but not least, no matter the sleep issue PWS patients experience, seeking professional help from a sleep specialist is of utmost importance. They will be able to provide the right treatment for your sleep issue so that you can finally get a good night’s sleep and feel well-rested after waking up.

Navigating Emphysema: Causes, Symptoms, and Management Strategies

Emphysema is a lung condition causing shortness of breath as a result of damaged air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. The inner walls of the alveoli weaken and rupture over time, thus creating larger air spaces and reducing the surface area of the lungs. As a result, the amount of oxygen reaching the bloodstream is reduced as well and when exhaling old air gets trapped, leaving no room for oxygen-rich air to enter.

Now, if you want to learn more about emphysema, continue reading below!

Emphysema Symptoms

The main emphysema symptom is shortness of breath. However, it typically begins gradually and you could also have the condition for many years without even experiencing or noticing any signs or symptoms.

For example, you can start experiencing shortness of breath when doing physical activities or exercises. Hence, you may avoid such activities which may seem like the symptom has gone away. But, over time, the symptoms will start interfering with simple daily tasks and eventually, you will experience shortness of breath even at rest.

Emphysema Causes

Long-term exposure to airborne irritants is the major emphysema cause. Such irritants include tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke, chemical fumes and dust, and air pollution. In rare cases, it can also be caused by an inherited protein deficiency. This protein is called alpha-1-antitrypsin and is responsible for protecting the elastic structures in the lungs.

Emphysema Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with emphysema, your healthcare provider will ask you about your medical history and perform a physical exam. A variety of tests can help in the diagnosis process including:

Imaging tests

  • Chest X-ray – to support a diagnosis of advanced emphysema or eliminate other conditions causing shortness of breath.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans – to detect and diagnose emphysema or determine whether you are a candidate for lung surgery.

Lab tests

A simple blood test from an artery in the wrist can show your doctor how well your lungs transfer oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from your bloodstream.

Lung function tests

Finally, your doctor may recommend some noninvasive tests, such as spirometry, that measure the amount of air your lungs can hold and show how well the air flows in and out of your lungs. These can also determine whether your lungs deliver oxygen to your bloodstream properly.

Emphysema Management

Unfortunately, emphysema cannot be cured. However, there are management strategies and treatment options that can help you relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the condition. Here are some common management strategies doctors recommend for treating emphysema:

Lifestyle changes

If you suffer from emphysema, there are several steps to take to slow its progression and protect from complications, including:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid other respiratory irritants
  • Practice regular exercise
  • Protect from cold air
  • Get recommended vaccinations
  • Prevent respiratory infections

Medications

Furthermore, your doctor might suggest taking medications, which depending on the severity of the condition might include:

  • Bronchodilators
  • Inhaled steroids
  • Antibiotics

Therapy

Although it may sound surprising, several types of therapy can help you relieve and slow down the progression of emphysema symptoms. These therapies might include:

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Nutrition therapy
  • Supplemental oxygen

Surgery

Last but not least, in severe cases, your doctor might suggest one or more different types of surgery. These surgeries might include:

  • Lung volume reduction surgery
  • Lung transplant

The Bottom Line

Emphysema is a serious lung condition, especially if left untreated. Therefore, ensure you consult your doctor as soon as you first experience unexplained shortness of breath that lasts for weeks or months. Getting the right treatment option on time is essential if you want to slow the progression of emphysema.