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Tachycardia: Some Basic Symptoms and Causes

A medical term for a heart rate over 100 beats per minute is tachycardia. There are many different heart rhythm disorders (also known as arrhythmias) that can lead to tachycardia. In some cases, it is normal to have a fast heartbeat. For example, it is normal for your heart rate to rise during exercise or as a response to illness, trauma, or stress. But, when some person suffers from tachycardia, the heart beats faster than normal due to conditions unrelated to normal physiological stress. There are some cases when tachycardia may not cause symptoms or complications.


If you leave the tachycardia untreated, then it can disrupt normal heart function and lead to serious complications, such as sudden cardiac arrest or death, stroke, or heart failure. Some therapies, like surgery, medical operations and procedures, or drugs, can help to control a rapid heartbeat or manage other conditions which lead to tachycardia.

Some Symptoms of Tachycardia:

When your heart is beating too rapidly, then it might not supply enough blood to the rest of the body. This can starve the organs and tissues of oxygen. It can cause the next signs and symptoms of tachycardia:

  • Fainting (also called syncope)
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations, which is defined as a racing, uncomfortable or irregular heartbeat or a sensation of flopping in the chest
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

Some folks who have tachycardia may not have symptoms and the condition is only discovered during a physical examination or with a heart–monitoring test called an electrocardiogram.


This condition is caused by something which disturbs the regular electrical impulses which can control the rate of your heart’s pumping action. There are many things that can cause or contribute to a fast heart rate and they include:

  • Consummation of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine
  • Sudden stress, such as fright
  • Smoking
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Medication side effects
  • Inequality of electrolytes, mineral-related substances necessary for conducting electrical impulses
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Exercise
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Drinking too many caffeinated beverages
  • Anemia

There are some cases when the exact cause for tachycardia cannot be determined.


There are different types of tachycardia which are grouped according to the part of the heart responsible for the fast heart rate and cause of the abnormally fast heartbeat. The most common types of tachycardia include:

Atrial flutter:

When someone has atrial flutter, the heart’s atria beat very fast, but at a regular rate. This fast rate results in weak contractions of the atria. The atrial flutter is caused by the irregular circuitry which is happening in the atria. The chapters of atrial flutter may go away themselves or may require treatment. Also, people who have atrial flutter can have atrial fibrillation at other times.

Atrial fibrillation:

This is rapid heart rate which is caused by chaotic and irregular electrical impulses in the upper chambers of the heart (known as atria). These signals are resulting in weak, rapid, and uncoordinated contractions of the atria. The atrial fibrillation may be temporary, but some episodes will not end unless treated. This is the most common type of tachycardia.

Ventricular fibrillation:

This condition is happening when rapid, chaotic electrical impulses are causing the lower heart chambers (ventricles) to quiver instead of pumping necessary blood to the body. This can be deadly for people if the heart is not restored to a normal rhythm within minutes an electric shock to the heart. Ventricular fibrillation may happen during or after a heart attack. Most people who suffer from ventricular fibrillation have underlying heart disease or have experienced trauma, such as being struck by lightning.

Ventricular tachycardia:

This is a rapid heart rate that starts with abnormal electric signals in the lower chambers of the heart. The fast heart rate is not permitting the ventricles to fill and contract efficiently to pump enough blood to the body.

Supraventricular tachycardia:

This type of tachycardia is characterized as an abnormally fast heartbeat that starts somewhere above the lower chambers of the heart. This type of tachycardia is caused by the abnormal circuitry which is happening in the heart and it is usually present at birth and creates a loop of overlapping signals.

Elene Jordanova
Elene Jordanova
Elena Jordanova is a medical researcher from Macedonia with specialization in Internal Medicine


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