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Heart Block: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Heart Block: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Max Lab

May 07, 2024

What Is Heart Block?

The heart's rhythmic beatings rely on electrical signals that coordinate contractions between its upper and lower chambers, also known as, atria and ventricles. It allows the heart to pump blood to the entire body. However, in heart block, these signals are disrupted, causing the heart to beat too slowly to pump blood effectively.

Depending on the severity, heart block can be of 3 types mentioned below:

  1. First-Degree Heart Block: In this type of heart block, the electrical signals slow down while moving from the atria to the ventricles. Since one can rarely notice its symptoms, the first-degree heart block often goes without any kind of treatment. 
  2. Second-Degree Heart Block: Unlike the first-degree heart block, this one might show symptoms like dizziness or fatigue. There are two types of second-degree heart block. 
  • Mobitz type I: The electrical signals start getting slower, and eventually the heart skips a beat.  
  • Mobitz type II: Among the second-degree heart block types, this one is more serious as sometimes the electrical signals do not reach the ventricles. It leads to a slower or irregular heartbeat.

3. Third-degree heart Block (Complete Heart Block): In this type of heart block the electrical system becomes completely blocked, leading to a very slow or irregular heartbeat. In a complete heart block, symptoms can include severe fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. 

Causes of Heart Block

Some individuals are born with a heart block, which is known as congenital heart block. At this age, it can be due to autoimmune diseases that are passed on from the mother to the child or if the heart muscles of the newborn remain underdeveloped. In adults, the causes of heart blockage can be due to heart damage, heart disease, medications, muscle disorders, and other conditions

Heart Block Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of heart blockage can differ as per the type of heart block in the body. In first-degree heart block, there are usually no symptoms at all. However, in second-degree heart block, the person can experience dizziness, chest pain, tiredness, heart palpitations, rapid breathing, and more. Symptoms of third-degree heart block can be chest pain, severe tiredness, shortness of breath, etc. The symptoms for second and third-degree heart block are relatively similar, but third-degree heart block typically has more intense symptoms. People who notice these heart block symptoms should promptly consult a healthcare provider for timely medical attention. 

Heart Block Diagnosis

Before recommending any test for heart blockage diagnosis, a cardiologist will first examine the medical history of individuals and the medicines they are taking. The cardiologist also reviews the diet, physical activity, lifestyle, and overall health of individuals. Then, a physical examination is conducted in which the doctor checks the heart rate and signs of heart failure. For further understanding of the symptoms, some testfor heart blockage are recommended that include the following:

  1. ECG: It is a non-invasive test to evaluate the heart's rhythm, strength, and rate by placing electrodes at certain spots, including the chest, legs, and arm. An ECG or electrocardiogram helps in first or second-degree heart block diagnosis. 
  2. Implantable Loop Recorder: This is a medical device injected under the chest skin to monitor the heart rhythm. It can be used for up to three to five years so the cardiologist can know how well the person's heart functions while doing their daily activities.
  3. Electrophysiology Study: It is another important test for checking heart blockage by studying the heart's electrical system and if the heart is beating abnormally. During the procedure, a catheter, a long thin tube, is inserted into the heart through a blood vessel to evaluate the electrical activity.

Treatment of Heart Blockage

The treatment for heart blockage can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the case. For first-degree heart block cases, no treatment is required as it is a milder type of heart block with minimal to no symptoms. People with second-degree heart block might have to use a pacemaker to keep the heart beating normally. A pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device. It can be used from the outside of the body or by implanting it in the chest or abdomen of the individual. In case of a complete heart block, the treatment recommended is either using a pacemaker or anti-arrhythmic drugs.

Heart block is caused due to the disruption of the electrical signals of the heart, which can affect the functioning of the heart. If a person has severe symptoms, it is best to consult a cardiologist to get the right treatment on time. Many health professionals also recommend a healthy diet, reduced alcohol consumption, and daily light exercises as preventive measures for heart block

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