What is Ventricular Tachycardia (VT)?
posted by The Live Better Team | November 13, 2017
In a healthy human heart, electrical signals are sent across tissues in the heart to control the way the heart beats. If these electrical signals are abnormal in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart, a disorder called ventricular tachycardia has developed. Also called V-tach or VT, ventricular tachycardia causes the heart to beat faster than normal. This can affect your heart’s ability to pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
Here are some basic facts about VT, related conditions and the heart’s electrical system.
The heart has four chambers: two upper chambers (called atria) and two lower chambers (called ventricles). The heart’s rhythm is normally controlled by the sinus node, which is something of a natural pacemaker—it’s located in the right atrium, and produces electrical impulses that prompt heartbeats.
These impulses travel across the atria, causing the muscles to contract and pump blood into the ventricles. The impulses then travel to the atrioventricular (AV) node, which is a cluster of cells that allows signals to travel to the ventricles. The AV node slows down the signal allowing them to fill with blood. When the impulses finally reach the ventricles, they contract and pump blood to the lungs or the rest of the body.
If anything disrupts the heart’s delicate process, the heart can begin to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) or with an abnormal rhythm. VT can last for anywhere from just a few seconds to much longer and may range from causing no symptoms to causing several. It can even cause the heart to stop in some cases, especially among people with a previous heart condition.
A dangerous condition that relates to VT is ventricular fibrillation or V-fib. During V-fib, the lower heart chambers contract in a rapid and uncoordinated way. It is most common in people with prior heart disease or heart attack. It can cause sudden cardiac arrest and death if it isn’t immediately treated.
In some cases, brief episodes of VT might not cause symptoms. In other cases, symptoms may include:
VT is caused by a disruption in the heart’s electrical system. Causes of this disruption can include:
In some cases, known as idiopathic ventricular tachycardia, no exact cause of VT can be determined. Factors that may increase the risk of VT can generally be impacted by lifestyle changes or medical treatment, and they include:
The best way to prevent VT is to reduce your risk of heart disease, or to monitor it and follow a treatment plan if you already have heart disease. Try to treat or eliminate factors that might lead to heart disease. Some steps include:
If you’re exhibiting symptoms of ventricular tachycardia, your doctor can offer a diagnosis and treatment options.
“Ventricular tachycardia.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ventricular-tachycardia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355138
“Ventricular Tachycardia – Topic Overview.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/ventricular-tachycardia-topic-overview#1
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.
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