Heart block, also known as atrioventricular block (AV block), is a condition in which the electrical signals that coordinate the heart’s pumping action are disrupted or slowed down as they travel from the upper chambers (atria) to the lower chambers (ventricles). Depending on the severity and type of heart block, the symptoms can vary. There are three main types of heart block: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree (complete) heart block. Here are some common symptoms associated with each type:
- First-degree heart block:
- Often asymptomatic (no noticeable symptoms).
- It may be detected incidentally on an electrocardiogram (ECG) during routine checkups or investigations for other health issues.
- The electrical conduction delay is present, but all signals from the atria still reach the ventricles.
- Second-degree heart block:
- Symptoms may not be present all the time and can come and go.
- Irregular or slow heart rate.
- Palpitations (sensations of skipped or extra heartbeats).
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Fainting or syncope (loss of consciousness) in severe cases.
There are two types of second-degree heart block:
- Mobitz Type I (Wenckebach): The electrical signals are progressively delayed until one signal is blocked, leading to a missed heartbeat.
- Mobitz Type II: Some electrical signals are blocked without warning, causing missed heartbeats.
- Third-degree (complete) heart block:
- The most severe type of heart block.
- Complete blockage of electrical signals between the atria and ventricles.
- The atria and ventricles beat independently, resulting in a slow and often irregular heart rate.
- Fatigue or weakness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Dizziness or fainting.
- Chest pain or discomfort.
It’s important to note that some people with first-degree or even second-degree heart block may not experience any symptoms and may not require treatment. However, third-degree heart block is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention and often necessitates a pacemaker to regulate the heart rate.
If you experience any symptoms that could be related to heart block or have concerns about your heart health, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation and guidance from a healthcare professional. They can perform appropriate tests, such as an ECG, and determine the most appropriate course of action based on your individual health situation.