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An arrhythmia is a general term describing any condition or disorder that affects heart rhythm or heart rate. Atopic atrial arrhythmias are a rare form of arrhythmia that is a tachycardia. It is characterized by a heart rate that beats between 135 and 175 per minute and it starts in the atrial myocardium.
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Cause and Risk Factors
This type of arrhythmia occurs when the heart's normal electrical conduction system is disrupted. This can be caused by a problem anywhere in the conduction system including the heart muscle. This form of arrhythmia is classified as a tachycardia which means the heart begins to beat too quickly. Those who have a blood chemistry imbalance and those who have a history of heart conditions such as heart valve disorders and coronary artery disease are at a higher risk for developing this condition. Other risk factors include using or abusing certain drugs and medications such as beta blockers, cocaine, psychotropics, amphetamines, caffeine, sympathomimetics and even certain antiarrhythmic medications.
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Those with an atopic atrial arrhythmia may not always experience symptoms. For some patients the first symptom will be cardiac arrest. If other symptoms do occur they can include heart palpitations, temporary loss of breath, fainting, paleness, dizziness, lightheadedness, changes in the rhythm, pattern and rate of their pulse, shortness of breath and chest pain.
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Diagnosing this condition often involves a series of tests. The doctor will first discuss the patients symptoms with them and perform a physical exam where they pay close attention to the patients blood pressure and closely listen to their heart with a stethoscope. After this they may order one or more tests such as an electrocardiogram, a coronary angiography, an echocardiogram or an electrophysiology study. They may also have the patient wear and ambulatory cardiac monitor for at least two weeks to monitor their heart rhythms.
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Many patients are able to control this condition well with a type of medication called an antiarrhythmic. Some patients may require a temporary pacemaker. A procedure known as radiofrequency catheter ablation may also be used. This procedure is capable of curing many arrhythmias.
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American Medical Encyclopedia. (2005). Arrhythmias. Retrieved on September 22, 2009 from Website: http://www.health.am/encyclopedia/more/arrhythmias/
eHealthMe. (2010). Atrial Flutter (Atrial Fibrillation/Flutter) In the Use of Cetirizine Hydrochloride, Who, When, and How? Retrieved on November 20, 2010 from eHealthMe: http://www.ehealthme.com/ds/cetirizine+hydrochloride/atrial+flutter
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Echocardiogram: Ekko – Wikimedia Commons