Did you know that a normal heart rate is about 60 to 100 beats per minute? Tachycardia is when your heart beats over 100 times in one minute, and it can be normal, such as during a workout. The term supraventricular describes the location above the ventricles in the atria (or AV node). Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a heart rhythm problem beginning above the heart’s two lowest chambers. It is essential to be aware of the symptoms of SVT. Some people have no signs of SVT or mistake the symptoms for other ailments. It can be difficult to pinpoint because you can experience periods of normal heart rates with rare episodes of supraventricular tachycardia. The symptoms come and go suddenly and may only last a few minutes. Symptoms of SVT that become ongoing or reoccur frequently may require treatment.
Also known as palpitations, this is an obvious symptom of supraventricular tachycardia. Although other medical conditions can also cause palpitations, they are characterized by a fast, hard, or irregular beat. You may feel your heart not only beating faster than normal but also pounding harder. This happens whenever the electrical impulses that are linked to heart rate do not function properly. Not only will your heart race in your chest, but CVT can cause your pulse to pound harder, too. You may notice it in your throat or neck where the blood vessels are closer to the skin. A fluttering heart may sound pleasant, but the sensation is rather uncomfortable. The chest cardiac muscle contraction for several reasons including stress, certain foods, or drugs, but it is also a sign of SVT.
If you ever feel neck, back, or chest discomfort, you should visit your doctor to ensure it is not a sign of something more serious like a heart attack. However, pain in the chest is also a symptom of supraventricular tachycardia. Besides pain, you can experience tightness and pressure in your chest as well as a tightness and fullness in the throat. Do not hesitate to reach out to a medical professional to discuss your health.
Shortness of Breath
Another common symptom that goes hand-in-hand with the other two is having a shortness of breath. It is understandable if you get a little weary after exercising or some other physical activity, but you should never be grasping for air when you are doing basic movements. If you find yourself experiencing this symptom of SVT, visit your family doctor as soon as possible to ensure it is not an underlying sign of something more serious.
Dizziness or Fainting
People can feel lightheaded or dizzy for all types of reasons including migraines, ear infections, malnutrition, and drug abuse. However, this unpleasant feeling is also associated with supraventricular tachycardia. Some people not only get dizzy, but they can faint or nearly faint. Also known as syncope, your body might collapse because of stress, prolonged standing, or heat exposure. However, if your heart is beating irregularly or you have a sudden drop in blood pressure, you can pass out. Make sure you see your doctor immediately to evaluate your health.
This is a common symptom of supraventricular tachycardia, especially in infants and children. It may be difficult to notice the signs of SVT in children, but sweating and poor eating are two primary signs along with pale skin and a pulse of over 200 beats per minute. Besides sweating, increased urination is linked to the medical condition as well. SVT is not a life-threatening illness, but if you have other medical problems or experience bothersome or reoccurring symptoms, then you need to seek treatment with your doctor.
Treatment: Vagal Maneuvers
This common treatment for supraventricular tachycardia is considered a self-care treatment, but your doctor can teach you how to perform the procedures safely. If you experience a sudden episode of SVT, there are a plethora of vagal maneuvers that can help slow down your heart rate. For example, the diving reflex in which you immerse your face in ice-cold water will stimulate the vagus nerves. These particular nerves will slow down the electrical impulses that trigger the increase in heart rate. A carotid sinus massage involves putting pressure on your neck, but should only be done by a professional. The Valsalva maneuver is a breathing technique in which you forcefully breathing out, but with your mouth shut and your nose pinched closed. Simpler strategies include coughing or gagging.
In the event the vagal maneuvers do not work during a serious episode of SVT then your doctor can prescribe medication. Even if you do find success using those techniques, your doctor may still write a prescription if you experience frequent episodes. Anti-arrhythmic agents and digoxin are common as well as calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers. To restore your heart rhythm and minimize any complications, you should always take your medicine as prescribed by the doctor. That way, you can continue to monitor your heart rhythm from home rather than having to go to the emergency room.
Treatment: Electrical Cardioversion
If the vagal maneuvers or medications do not help during an episode, then your doctor can use cardioversion. It is a medical procedure that uses medicine in an attempt to slow down the electrical impulses. A small patch or paddle is placed on your chest, and it delivers a small shock to the heart. The electrical cardioversion can stop severe symptoms by resetting the rhythm of the heart to a normal pace.
Treatment: Catheter Ablation
Another medical procedure besides electrical cardioversion is ablation. It involves the removal of body tissue but is considered safe with minimal serious risks. Catheter ablation stops the irregular heartbeat in most patients because it destroys the parts of the heart that trigger the rhythm problem. Catheters are threaded through a vein into the heart. On the end of each wire is an electrode that creates heat to remove the bad tissue. Freezing the tissue off or using radiofrequency energy to ablate this heart tissue also works.
Treatment: Lifestyle Changes
Whether you need medicine or a medical treatment, your doctor will also recommend you change your lifestyle if you have supraventricular tachycardia. To keep your heart as healthy as possible, you should refrain from smoking altogether and drink alcohol only in moderation. Eating a diet rich in heart-healthy foods is essential as well as exercising regularly. These activities will also help you keep a healthy body weight. Alternative therapies might also help treat the symptoms of SVT. For example, yoga and meditation are great ways to not only reduce stress but maintain a steady heart rhythm. Besides relaxation techniques, acupuncture may also reduce irregular beats.