Heart arrhythmia is a medical condition wherein the electric impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don’t work properly; thus, making your heartbeat irregularly — either too fast or too slow. Heart arrhythmia is a very common heart condition in the US, with about 2.2 million people in the US live with atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia. A recent study has shown that in every 4 adults in the US aged 40 years old and above, one could develop an irregular heartbeat. Heart arrhythmia can be as harmless as a soft fluttering of the heart, but it can also become life-threatening, causing your heart to get damaged or even cause death. 

Heart arrhythmia can be caused by a variety of medical conditions such as blocked arteries in the heart, overactive or underactive thyroid gland, diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, stress, and others. But did you know that heart arrhythmia can be caused by side effects of the medications too? 

Identifying Heart Rhythm Side Effects of Medicines

Several medications can affect the heart’s electrical signals and can make it beat irregularly, especially when taken in the long term. Drug-induced arrhythmias can often make you feel like your heart is fluttering or racing. You may also feel lightheaded or dizzy, chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath. 

The most common medications that can cause heart rhythm side effects when taken long term are asthma medicines, antibiotics, thyroid medications, antidepressants, certain food supplements, medications used to manage the Covid-19 virus such as chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and others. Individuals who have a history of heart attacks, heart illnesses, or had undergone heart surgery before are more at risk of developing heart rhythm side effects after prolonged exposure to these medications. 

Preventing and Managing Heart Rhythm Side Effects of Medicines

It is essential to talk to your doctor as soon as you experience heart rhythm problems as side effects of your medications. 

Maintaining the normal electrolyte level and taking medications as prescribed by your doctor can help reduce your risk of developing heart rhythm issues. Avoid other factors that can increase your risk of the condition such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and stress. 

Your doctor may advise you to discontinue using the medications that cause your heart rhythm problems or prescribe you another treatment. You may also need to take antiarrhythmic medications or undergo surgery wherein a device will be implanted to your heart to correct its irregular beating. However, for patients with a higher risk of drug-induced arrhythmia, your doctor may perform regular ECG monitoring.