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What Is Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Know the basics|Know the symptoms|Know the causes|Know the risk factors|Understand the diagnosis & treatment|Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What Is Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Know the basics

What is supraventricular tachycardia?

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) occurs when the heart beats too fast, causing the heart to not fill with blood completely. The heart normally beats at 60-100 beats per minute (bpm) but with supraventricular tachycardia the heartbeats 150-250 bpm.

In some cases, supraventricular tachycardia has no symptoms, but this condition can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Some of these complications include heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, or stroke.

There are many types of heart rhythm disorders, called tachycardia. There is chronic atrial fibrillation (AFIB), the most common kind of tachycardia that is often caused by structural abnormalities of the heart related to heart disease. There is paroxysmal sinus tachycardia, atrioventricular nodal reentry tachycardia (AVNRT), atrioventricular reciprocating tachycardia (AVRT), Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, and finally supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

If you suspect you have SVT or any of the conditions mentioned above, you should seek medical attention immediately.

How common is supraventricular tachycardia?

Both men and women can have SVT, but it appears to be more common in women. SVT is also the most common arrhythmia in children.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of supraventricular tachycardia?

The most common symptom is heart palpitations or rapid heartbeat. Other symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fainting, angina (chest pain), fatigue, sweating, and nausea. Symptoms may start and stop suddenly and last for a few minutes. In some serious cases, patients may lose their consciousness. On the other side of the spectrum, some people may not experience any symptoms at all.

There may be some signs or symptoms of SVT not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above, consult with your doctor immediately. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes supraventricular tachycardia?

Normally, the electrical signal that starts in the heart’s sinoatrial (SA) node starts the contraction of the atria. Then, the ventricles contract. SVT occurs when an extra electrical pathway triggers fast heartbeats.

The causes of this behavior include medicines (such as digoxin, or theophylline), and lung conditions (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pneumonia).

Alcohol, caffeine, illicit drugs, and smoking increase the risk of SVT. Genetics also comes into play. One type of SVT known as Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome may be inherited.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for supraventricular tachycardia?

Many factors can affect the heart’s electrical system. Some of those that have been identified include:

  • Damage to heart tissue from heart disease;
  • Abnormal electrical pathways in the heart present at birth (congenital);
  • Anemia;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Overly intense exercise;
  • Anxiety/stress;
  • Smoking;
  • Alcohol;
  • Caffeinated beverages;
  • Abuse of recreational drugs, such as cocaine;
  • Electrolyte imbalance;
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Take note that the absence of risk factors does not mean you cannot get SVT. These factors are a guide to inform you if you are at risk of developing the condition.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is supraventricular tachycardia diagnosed?

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is an effective tool that is widely used by physicians for diagnosing tachycardia as well as other cardiovascular problems.

Doctors can also make a diagnosis by listening to heart sounds. With tachycardia, blood moves abnormally through the mitral valve and causes a sound called a murmur which can be heard with the help of a stethoscope. The timing and location of the murmur help the doctor identify which valve is affected.

The doctor uses a physical examination, medical history, electrocardiography (ECG), laboratory tests, and chest X-ray for the initial diagnosis. The doctor may order a Holter monitor, a portable 24-hour ECG, to determine how often arrhythmia occurs during a 24-hour period. The doctor may also want an electrophysiology study (EPS) for a more accurate diagnosis.

How is supraventricular tachycardia treated?

Treatment is not necessary for people without symptoms.

For those with symptoms, treatment includes vagal maneuvers, such as the Valsalva maneuver or coughing, and splashing ice water on the face.

Medicines like adenosine, diltiazem, and verapamil may be prescribed. The doctor may use electrical cardioversion for emergency treatment or if other treatments don’t work. In electrical cardioversion, a brief electric current is given to fix the heart’s rhythm.

For recurring SVT, treatment may involve drugs (such as beta-blockers), pacemakers, or catheter ablation (either heat /radiofrequency ablation or cold / cryoablation) to destroy a small part of the heart that is sending the abnormal electrical signals. , and surgery.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage supraventricular tachycardia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with supraventricular tachycardia.

  • Limit or don’t drink alcohol.
  • Increase the amount of rest.
  • Consume tea and coffee in moderation.
  • Stay away from recreational drugs.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
  • Quit smoking. Consult your doctor about strategies or programs to help you give up a smoking habit.
  • Use over-the-counter medications with caution as they may contain stimulants that may trigger a rapid heartbeat. Ask your doctor for a list of medications that you need to avoid.
  • Learn to cope with stress. Avoid unnecessary pressure and learn how to handle normal anxiety in a healthy way.
  • Track cardiac arrhythmias in your daily life. For example, take note when your heart rate increased after drinking coffee.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

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

Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Supraventricular tachycardia. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/supraventricular_tachycardia-health/article_em.htm. Date Accessed July 7, 2016. Tachycardia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tachycardia/basics/causes/con-20043012?p=1. Date Accessed July 7, 2016. Supraventricular tachycardia. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000183.htm. Accessed July 7, 2016.
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Written by Kristel Dacumos-Lagorza Updated Jun 03, 2020
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.