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Causes of Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

Authors:
  • Michael Jubinville, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Causes of Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

Arrhythmias are caused by a change in the electrical signals of the heart. It may be an abnormal signal or a problem with how the signal moves through the heart. This may happen because of one or more of the following:

  • The heart's pacemaker (sinoatrial [SA] node) is not working as it should. It will set a rate or rhythm that isn’t normal.
  • Damage to the heart that makes it harder for these signals to move through the heart. May be caused by injury or illness such as:
  • A signal to contract starts in areas of the heart other than the SA node.
  • Problems with how your muscles and nerves work.

Factors outside the body that can affect the rhythm of the heart include:

  • Stress
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines
  • Diet pills
  • Certain medicines, such as those used to treat a cough or cold, heart problems, asthma, depression, or thyroid problems.

References

  • Arrhythmia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/arrhythmia. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  • Atrial fibrillation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115288/Atrial-fibrillation. Updated August 22, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  • Atrial flutter. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115251/Atrial-flutter. Updated February 22, 2017. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  • Atrioventricular (AV) conduction disorders. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T907302/Atrioventricular-AV-conduction-disorders. Updated November 27, 2017. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  • Symptoms, diagnosis and monitoring of arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/symptoms-diagnosis--monitoring-of-arrhythmia. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  • Understand your risk for arrhythmia. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/understand-your-risk-for-arrhythmia#.WTAaIOvytQJ. Accessed January 2, 2019.
  • Ventricular arrhythmias. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T909129/Ventricular-arrhythmias. Updated October 19, 2018. Accessed January 2, 2019.

Contributors

  • Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated:
2018-12-01

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.