Tachycardia is a heart rate that’s faster than normal, or more than 100 beats per minute at rest. It can start in your upper or lower chambers of your heart and can range from mild to life-threatening. Treatments include medicines, an ablation procedure and implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) placement.
When you have tachycardia, your heart beats faster than normal for a few seconds to a few hours. Normally, your heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute when you’re not active. When your heart beats more than 100 times a minute at rest, that’s tachycardia.
Because your heart beats too often, it doesn’t have the time it needs to fill with blood between beats. This can be dangerous if your heart can’t supply all of your cells with the blood and oxygen they need.
Your heart normally responds to electrical signals from your heart’s sinoatrial (SA) node. These signals control how often your heart beats. When you’ve had a scare or are very emotional or anxious, or are exercising, your heart may send signals more frequently for a short time. This is called sinus tachycardia and goes away when you calm down or rest.
Other types of tachycardia can come back regularly and can be more serious.
These begin in the atria, or upper chambers of your heart, when you have an issue with electrical signals there.
These begin in your ventricles, your heart’s lower chambers, when you have an electrical signal issue in that area.
Atrial or supraventricular tachycardia can affect:
Ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation can affect:
About 2 million Americans have atrial fibrillation and 90,000 others per year get a supraventricular tachycardia diagnosis. Each year, an estimated 184,000 to 450,000 Americans die from ventricular arrhythmias that cause sudden cardiac death.
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Some people don’t have tachycardia symptoms, while others may have mild to severe symptoms. Tachycardia symptoms may include:
Yes. Without treatment, certain types of tachycardia can lead to:
Tachycardia has a number of causes, including:
Your healthcare provider will ask for your medical history and do a physical exam. They may also order tests.
Your healthcare provider can use several tests to diagnose tachycardia, including:
Treatments vary depending on the type of tachycardia.
Atrial or supraventricular tachycardia treatments
Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) treatments
Ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation treatments
Your healthcare provider may tell you to cut down on your caffeine or alcohol intake if you have tachycardia.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe tachycardia medicines, including:
After an ablation, you may have swelling, bruising or redness where your healthcare provider inserted a catheter for the procedure. Other risks include:
After you get an ICD, there’s a risk of:
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for taking your medicines and decreasing your intake of alcohol and caffeine.
You can reduce your risk of tachycardia in the following ways:
Limit or avoid alcohol, smoking and caffeine. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking herbal supplements. All of these can trigger tachycardia. Taking care of your heart issues or finding alternatives to medicines that cause a problem can help you prevent some forms of tachycardia.
Depending on which type of tachycardia you have, you may have harmless symptoms, very dangerous symptoms (from ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation) or something in between. Medicines and other treatments can help you manage your symptoms.
You may need to wear a Holter monitor or do electrophysiology testing to see how well your medicine is working.
Tachycardia that puts you in danger doesn’t go away on its own. You’ll need to live a healthy lifestyle and take medicines to manage it. You may also need to have a procedure, such as an ablation, to help you manage it.
Although medications can’t cure tachycardia, they can help you regulate it. Ablation may be a long-term solution to certain types of tachycardia. Ventricular fibrillation can be fatal without immediate treatment.
Keep taking the medicines your healthcare provider prescribed and be sure to go to all follow-up appointments.
Contact your provider if your medicine isn’t helping you as much anymore or if you start having new symptoms.
Get help right away if you feel your heart pounding, have chest pain or if you’re fainting or getting dizzy. You should also get help immediately for someone who collapses or is unconscious from ventricular fibrillation. They’ll need CPR to survive until paramedics arrive.
Yes, tachycardia is a kind of arrhythmia in which your heart rate is much faster than normal. Bradycardia is another kind of arrhythmia in which your heart rate is not fast enough.
Yes, some types of tachycardia are dangerous, especially ventricular fibrillation. Some tachycardias are mild, and others cause issues that are moderately dangerous.
If you have sinus tachycardia, your symptoms will go away once the fear, anxiety or other emotion that caused it ends. For most other types of tachycardia, you’ll need medication or even a procedure to keep your symptoms from coming back.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Tachycardia symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on which type of tachycardia you have. For peace of mind, talk to your healthcare provider if you’re having symptoms. They can tell you if you have a reason to be concerned. Keep taking the medicines your provider prescribed for you, especially heart medicines. Don’t stop taking them without your healthcare provider’s approval. And be sure to keep going to all of your follow-up appointments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/03/2022.
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