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Is Sinus Tachycardia Serious? Find Out Here

Is Sinus Tachycardia Serious? Find Out Here

Have you recently received your electrocardiogram (ECG) results and noticed the words “sinus tachycardia”? Maybe you’re asking – is sinus tachycardia serious? Should I be treated for it? Learn more about sinus tachycardia here.

What is Sinus Tachycardia?

Tachycardia is the medical term we use to generally describe an increased heart rate (100 beats per minute and up).

We categorize tachycardia based on the part of the heart that triggers the increased rate. If the increased rate starts at the upper chamber, we call it atrial tachycardia. If it happens because of the lower chambers, it’s called ventricular tachycardia. Now, if it is the sinus node (the heart’s natural pacemaker) that releases impulses at a quicker rate, then it’s called sinus tachycardia.

Types of Sinus Tachycardia

Sinus tachycardia can be serious depending on when and how it occurs.

You see, ST, which is a faster than normal but steady heartbeat, can happen in response to identifiable reasons, such as anxiety, exercise, stress, and fever. We refer to this as normal or appropriate sinus tachycardia.

Inappropriate sinus tachycardia, on the other hand, occurs for no apparent reason. Having ST while at rest may be concerning for your doctor, especially if you don’t seem to have an illness or are not anxious.

When is Sinus Tachycardia Serious?

Usually, adults tolerate normal ST without a problem. So, when is sinus tachycardia serious?

Sinus tachycardia, in general, can be serious if it happens frequently to the point where it weakens the heart (tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy).

On top of the risk of cardiomyopathy, inappropriate ST can also be a cause for concern if its accompanying signs and symptoms already affect your quality of life. Below are the possible signs and symptoms of inappropriate ST:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Uncomfortable palpitations

Reminder

Please keep in mind that inappropriate ST is rare. In most cases, the doctor can determine the possible cause of your elevated heart rate. Once identified, they can devise an appropriate treatment plan to address the concern, which can then take care of the ST.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia?

If the doctor doesn’t see any obvious reason behind your ST, they will most likely perform other tests to check for other possible causes.

Case in point: They might order blood tests to check for the levels of your electrolytes as they can affect your heart rate (magnesium, potassium, etc.). They might also recommend thyroid function tests since hyperthyroidism may trigger tachycardia.

Should they not find any cause, they might diagnose inappropriate sinus tachycardia IF you satisfy the following criteria:

  • A resting heart rate of 100 beats per minute
  • An average resting heart rate of 90 beats per minute in Holter heartbeat monitoring for 24 hours.
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations with emotional distress.

Treating Sinus Tachycardia

The treatment for ST depends on the cause. But, how about inappropriate sinus tachycardia? Reports say, treating inappropriate ST can be difficult because the reason is unknown.

In many cases, the doctor may recommend:

  • Eliminating possible triggers, such as caffeine, alcohol, and smoking
  • Taking medicines that slow down heart rate
  • Performing appropriate exercise to maintain heart health

If you don’t respond to the treatment strategy, the doctor may raise the possibility of catheter ablation, where energy is used to destroy a little portion of the sinus node.

Of course, the procedure has some risks. First, it doesn’t always work. Secondly, the procedure may destroy a bigger part of the sinus node, warranting the need for an artificial pacemaker.

Key Takeaways

When is sinus tachycardia serious? Reports say when it happens frequently that it weakens the heart. It can also be considered serious if the accompanying signs and symptoms already affect the quality of life.

Learn more about Heart Health here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

What is sinus tachycardia?, https://www.okheart.com/about-us/ohh-news/what-is-sinus-tachycardia, Accessed May 19, 2022
Sinus tachycardia: Evaluation and management, https://www.uptodate.com/contents/sinus-tachycardia-evaluation-and-management, Accessed May 19, 2022
Sinus Tachycardia, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553128/, Accessed May 19, 2022
Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/i/inappropriate-sinus-tachycardia.html, Accessed May 19, 2022
Sinus Tachycardia, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/sinus-tachycardia, Accessed May 19, 2022
Sinus tachycardia: Everything you need to know, https://ibcces.org/learning/sinus-tachycardia-everything-you-need-to-know/, Accessed May 19, 2022

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 4 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza