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Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia

Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is an arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm, that causes the heart to beat too quickly—often causing the heart to race and beat as many as 250 beats per minute. These episodes can start and stop without warning and last from seconds to hours.

PSVT episodes affect people in different ways. Some may not even notice them, while others describe them as frightening and exhausting. Some only experience episodes a few times a year, while others have them every day. 

For many people, PSVT episodes can be scary and not being able to predict when the next episode will happen can cause serious anxiety and compel them to avoid activities and alter daily routines. Symptoms of PSVT can include anxiety, dizziness, chest tightness or pressure, and palpitations. In more serious cases, the irregular heart rhythms may limit oxygen to the body and can cause shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, fatigue, fainting, or sweating.

PSVT is caused by an electrical problem in the heart that you are born with, but it can be brought on by a number of risk factors, including age, female gender, certain medications, alcohol, caffeine, illicit drugs, and smoking.

While typically not dangerous, it’s important to properly diagnose PSVT to make sure it’s not a more serious type of arrhythmia and to treat episodes that impact your heart health or your quality of life. There are a number of treatment options that can help you live with your PSVT, including lifestyle changes and vagal maneuvers that you can do at home. Some people may require medications or even emergency procedures to get their heart back in rhythm. You don’t need to live in constant fear of your next PSVT episodes. Take charge and talk to your healthcare provider about how you can lead a normal life.

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