Depending on the type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), medication can help slow or regulate a person’s heartbeat. Doctors will assess symptoms to decide the best medication.
Medications for arrhythmia, treat symptoms and prevent damage to the heart and other organs. Arrhythmias affect
A wide range of medications is available to treat arrhythmias. People must consult healthcare professionals and undergo treatment to prevent arrhythmias from worsening.
This article discusses arrhythmias and the best medications for treating them.
An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, is a condition where the rhythm of the heart is not working correctly.
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The heart may beat too slowly, too quickly, or irregularly. Types of arrhythmia
- Tachycardia: The heart beats faster than 100 beats per minute.
- Bradycardia: The heart beats slower than 60 beats per minute.
- Premature heartbeat: The signal comes earlier, causing the heart to skip a beat.
- Atrial flutter: The upper chambers of the heart — the atrial — beat faster than the ventricle, the lower chambers of the heart.
- Atrial fibrillation: The heart beats much faster than expected, causing inadequate pumping of blood to the lungs and the entire body. This is the most common type of arrhythmia.
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT): Issues with the electrical signal that leads to extra heartbeats. In most cases, it begins and ends suddenly and occurs commonly in young people.
- Ventricular tachycardia: The ventricles beat too fast and might last for a few seconds or longer. Ventricular tachycardia that lasts more than a few seconds can increase the risk of ventricular fibrillation.
- Ventricular fibrillation: This occurs if the electric signals cause the quivering of ventricles instead of the usual pumping of blood. This can result in sudden cardiac arrest and death.
Most cases of arrhythmia are treatable with medication or procedures. However, if left untreated, they can damage the heart, brain, and other organs. This can lead to cardiac arrest, heart failure, or stroke.
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People must consult a healthcare professional to undergo accurate diagnosis and to understand the type and severity of arrhythmia. Doctors prescribe appropriate medications based on these factors.
Some common medications to treat arrhythmia and their side effects are detailed below.
Beta-blockers are a class of medication that binds to specific beta receptors and blocks the action of hormones such as adrenaline.
They help to slow down the heart rate and
Common types of beta-blockers
Beta-blockers are available in intravenous or oral forms. Dosage is
People should follow the dosages recommended by a healthcare professional and check the drug packet for more information on potential side effects.
Sodium channel blockers
Sodium channel blockers
Blocking the sodium channels can decrease the rate of transmission of an electric impulse. This makes them effective in treating ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, and flutter.
Common types of sodium channel blockers
People can take sodium channel blockers orally or intravenously. The dosage varies depending on the type of sodium channel blocker.
People should follow the dosages recommended by their healthcare professionals and check the drug packet for more information on potential side effects.
Potassium channel blockers
Potassium channel blockers are drugs that
The blocking of potassium channels delays the repolarization of cells, thereby resulting in QT prolongation — a process that slows the heart’s contractions. These drugs help treat atrial fibrillation, flutter, and ventricular tachycardia.
Administration of potassium channel blockers takes place orally or intravenously. Their dosage varies depending on the type of administration pathway.
The use of potassium channel blockers can
- other types of arrhythmia
- vision disturbances
- lung disease
- thyroid level issues
Calcium channel blockers
Calcium channel blockers bind to calcium channels of the heart and block the inward flow of calcium ions.
They help treat arrhythmias by
Common examples of calcium channel blockers
Administration of calcium channel blockers takes place orally or intravenously. However, the dosage varies depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Side effects of calcium channel blockers
- edema, swelling due to trapped fluid
- flushing of the skin
Anticoagulants are blood-thinning medications that work to reduce the risk of the formation of future blood clots by changing the composition of blood.
Examples of anticoagulants approved for people with atrial fibrillation
Some people with arrhythmias develop severe symptoms and complications that
People usually need to take medications if they display the following serious symptoms:
- discomfort in the chest
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
People must keep track of their symptoms and immediately consult a doctor if they become severe.
- older age
- underlying heart disease
- family history of arrhythmia
- smoking tobacco
- drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol
- sleep apnea
- issues with thyroid hormone
- illegal drug misuse
- high blood pressure
- certain over-the-counter medications and antibiotics
Medications for arrhythmia can interact with other medications
People must inform a doctor if they are taking any of the
- medications that treat high blood pressure
- medications that treat diabetes
- medications that treat chronic pulmonary diseases or asthma
- other medications that treat irregular heartbeats
- medications that treat allergies, such as adrenaline or noradrenaline
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
- medications that treat certain mental health conditions
Other treatment options for arrhythmias
- Cardioversion: A procedure that utilizes external electric shocks to restore the usual heart rhythm.
- Catheter ablation: A technique to stop the transmission of incorrect electrical impulses through the heart that leads to irregular heartbeats.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs): Devices that can send an electric pulse or shock to the heart to restore a regular heartbeat.
- Pacemaker: A small device that sends electrical pulses to ensure that the heart chambers beat together in sync.
- Vagal maneuvers: Relaxation techniques that can help slow the heart rate. Methods include placing a towel soaked in ice water over the face, lying down, and coughing.
People must seek emergency medical care if their heart rate is too fast, too slow, or beating irregularly, alongside chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
People must also have check-ups while undergoing treatment for arrhythmias to ensure proper intake of medications and evaluation of any implanted devices.
Family and friends of people with arrhythmias can also learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case of emergencies.
Arrhythmias are common and result in an irregular heartbeat. Several medications are available, depending on the type and severity of arrhythmia.
People experiencing symptoms of an irregular heartbeat must consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. This is important since certain cases of untreated arrhythmia can cause cardiac arrest and death.