Treatment of your arrhythmia may involve one or more doctors and specialists. If you also have heart disease, you may need to see a doctor who specializes in heart disease. If your arrhythmia is not a health concern, you may not require any specialists. The following are some of the professionals that may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of your arrhythmia.
Primary Care Physician
An internist or general practitioner may initially diagnose and treat your arrhythmia, coordinate care, and maintain records for you. He or she may also refer you to any relevant specialists.
Your primary care doctor may refer you to a cardiologist for further evaluation and treatment. A cardiologist is a specialist who cares for people who have heart problems, including arrhythmias. A cardiologist will likely conduct a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures to determine if you have an arrhythmia, what part of your heart is affected, and the severity of your condition.
Your primary care doctor or cardiologist may refer you to an electrophysiologist. These doctors are cardiologists who specialize in the care and treatment of arrhythmias. They may prescribe a course of treatment and relay that information to your general practitioner for your extended care, or they may serve as your primary doctor when it comes to your arrhythmia.
When you make your appointment, ask if there are any pre-appointment restrictions. For example, you might be asked to restrict your diet if your doctor plans to draw blood for certain tests.
When you visit your doctor, it is important to come prepared with some basic information he or she will need to make a proper diagnosis. Having this information written down will save time and ensure that you don’t forget anything important.
Information to Bring
The following information will help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis:
- a description of your symptoms
- how often they happen
- what you are doing when they happen
- how long they last
- a list of medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter meds, vitamins, and herbal supplements. If you use illicit or prescription drugs recreationally, share this information with your doctor as well.
In addition, your doctor will want to know if you or anyone in your family has any history of heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, or thyroid problems. He or she will also want to know if anyone in your family has had an arrhythmia or died suddenly.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Having a list of questions written down will help you get the most from your visit with your doctor. The following are some questions you might want to ask. Any other questions you have should be added to this list. Putting them in order starting with the most important will be helpful if you run short on time.
- What is the likely cause of my symptoms?
- Do I have an arrhythmia?
- What else might be causing my symptoms?
- Will I need tests? If so, what kind?
- What is the best treatment?
- Should I change my diet?
- Should I exercise? How much?
- How often should I have checkups?
- What are the alternatives to the treatment you’re suggesting?
- What about my other health conditions?
- Do I need to restrict my activities, drinking, smoking, etc.?
- Do I need to see a specialist?
Questions Your Doctor Will Ask
Your doctor will want to know about habits such as smoking, drinking, or illegal drugs. It is important that you answer honestly. Your doctor can only make an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment recommendation if he or she has complete and accurate information. Remember that whatever you tell your doctor is confidential.
Your doctor will also want to know if you have experienced or are experiencing a time of heavy mental or emotional stress, such as a loss of job, a death in the family, or personal relationship issues. These can contribute to arrhythmia.
Other questions your doctor will ask include:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Do you have symptoms all the time or occasionally?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What makes your symptoms better?
- What makes your symptoms worse?
The list of information you have written down will help you answer these questions.
It is natural to worry about an arrhythmia, but it can lead to stress and depression. This can make your arrhythmia worse. It is a good idea to make time for fun and relaxation on a regular basis. This may be hard to do at first, but as you begin to feel better, it will become easier.
You might want to consider joining a support group, either in your community or online. It is sometimes helpful to speak with other people who are having similar experiences.
Having a plan in place to deal with episodes of arrhythmia can put your mind at ease. Talk to your doctor about:
- how and when to use vagal maneuvers (actions that can help slow an episode of fast heart rate)
- when to call the doctor
- when to seek emergency care
Work with your doctor, as well as with family and friends, to come up with treatments and plans that help you live a normal life.