How Serious is Tachycardia

Tachycardia is a fancy name for a rapid heartbeat. It can feel very scary when it happens to you.

If you are new to experiencing tachycardia, you may be wondering, exactly how serious is it?

Don’t panic. Tachycardia may feel scary, but it is not typically an impending sign of death.

Read on.

What Exactly Is Tachycardia?


Tachycardia is a faster heartbeat than normal. What “normal” is depends on your age, sex, and other factors. However, with adults, tachycardia is any heart rate or pulse that is faster than 100 beats per minute.

Everyone probably gets tachycardia once in a while. If you are scared or panicked, then your heart will often race.

Is Tachycardia a Serious Condition?

Here are the main types of tachycardia:

​1. Sinus Tachycardia

​2. Atrial Fibrillation

​3. Atrial Flutter

​4. Supraventricular Tachycardias (SVTs)

​5. Ventricular Tachycardia

​6. Ventricular Fibrillation

​Symptoms of Tachycardia?


Symptoms of tachycardia can go beyond just a rapid pulse rate. They include:

  • ​Fatigue
  • ​Lightheadedness
  • ​Dizziness
  • ​Shortness of breath
  • ​Shortness of breath
  • ​Anxiety

​Now, here’s the rub: Anxiety can cause tachycardia, but tachycardia can cause anxiety! It is common for people with tachycardia to be written off initially as just having a panic attack. Be persistent with your doctor to get the correct diagnosis.

​What Causes Tachycardia?

We have already mentioned a variety of causes of tachycardia. They include:

  • ​Genetics / congenital (you were born with it)
  • ​Anxiety or panic attacks
  • ​Underlying heart conditions
  • ​Complications from surgery
  • ​Trauma to the body (lightning strike)
  • ​Viral or bacterial infections
  • ​Neurological disorders
  • ​Electrolyte imbalances
  • ​Other diseases

POTS: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome


A common cause of tachycardia is an autonomic nervous system dysfunction.

Let’s take a look at POTS, which is shorthand for “Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.” This syndrome is much more common than people realize, and it is one of those invisible conditions that can disable a person even though he or she might look fine on the outside.

Researchers are not 100 percent sure exactly what can cause POTS. It may be caused by a variety of conditions, including viral infections and small fiber neuropathy (damage to the tiny unmyelinated nerve fibers that are typically closest to the skin). Some people have POTS from birth, and it is just a condition they were born with. Epstein-Barr virus, the viral infection that causes mononucleosis, is thought to cause POTS.

POTS is a form of dysautonomia, which is disorder of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates things like heart rate and even how much we sweat.

POTS is called “Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome” because the tachycardia often happens when people stand up (thus, “postural”).

Thus, the definitive test to diagnose POTS is the tilt-table test. You are strapped on a table, where you get tested first while lying down. Then, the table is raised vertically for anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Your heart rate is monitored throughout. Tachycardia will occur when the table is vertical for people with POTS.

Some people with severe POTS will faint or pass out during this test. It is not a pleasant test to take.

People with POTS experience frequent fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

POTS can be managed, but it can cause debilitating symptoms and even leave people on disability. They may look OK on the outside, but on the inside, they must fight just to walk up a flight of stairs.

POTS, for whatever the reason, often results in lowered blood volume, so staying hydrated is very important for people with POTS. Consuming extra salt to help increase blood pressure and maintain hydration is also encouraged often by doctors. POTS can be helped with electrolyte tablets, Gatorade, and coconut water (which can be supplemented with extra salt).

Diagnosing Tachycardia


Since tachycardia is due to a variety of issues, you will need a qualified cardiologist and/or neurologist for diagnoses. (The neurologist can diagnose an autonomic nervous system problem like POTS.)

Do not just expect your primary care physician to diagnose you. Also, remember that you may be blown off as just having anxiety. Be persistent and fire your physician if they are not taking you seriously.

Electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs), heart monitors, ultrasounds of the heart, x-rays, blood tests, tilt table tests, and other types of tests will be completed depending on the type of tachycardia you are presenting.

​Treatment for Tachycardia

tachycardia treatment

Treatment for tachycardia depends on the type you have. If you have sinus tachycardia, you may need no drugs but should avoid caffeine and stimulants. Sometimes beta blockers are prescribed for tachycardia. In severe cases of atrial fibrillation, you may need a pacemaker, or you can get ablation in a minor surgery to remove the fake electrical charge.

As we mentioned, POTS is managed differently, primarily through maintaining hydration and increasing salt intake. Of course, salt can increase blood pressure, so people who have tachycardia due to a heart condition (that may be caused by high blood pressure) should not be adding salt.

All of this is to say that tachycardia is very individual. You should not try to self-diagnose on the Internet. You need a cardiologist.

Tachycardia is Not Always Serious

Heart Doctor

The good news is, most types of tachycardia are not immediately serious and can be managed with a variety of tools, medicines, and lifestyle changes. On rare occasions, certain types of tachycardia can cause blood clots or heart failure. For this reason, getting a good cardiologist is critical. Do not just let your heart symptoms be written off as “anxiety,” as you may have a serious condition that requires treatment.

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