Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) is a condition that affects the heart. For the most part, individuals with this heart disease are able to lead a normal life with the right treatment. Others, however, experience such severe symptoms that they have difficulty performing tasks at work or at home. If symptoms are severe enough to prevent the individual from going to work, they may find themselves unable to pay bills and will often seek some form of financial assistance. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes SVT as a disability in their Blue Book. This means that individuals with this heart condition are able to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
These benefits are eligible through paycheck deductions even though the program is managed by the government. This means that the individual trying to apply for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits must be working and their employer must be deducting a percentage of their paycheck for Social Security benefits. These benefits are meant to financially assist individuals experiencing such severe symptoms that they are unable to collect a paycheck. In order to qualify, applicants must be exhibiting these crippling symptoms for at least 12 months.
What is Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)?
Supraventricular tachycardia is a heart disease that causes the heart to beat extremely fast without the assistance of external factors such as exercising or anxiety. A normal heart rate is around 60 to 100 beats per minute, but individuals with SVT experience a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute. This abnormality is called an arrhythmia and will cause palpitations, which is what makes the heart feel like it’s fluttering or racing.
The heart is responsible for sending blood full of oxygen to the rest of the body. In order to do this properly, it pumps in four different areas: the upper chambers of the heart, which are called the left and right atria, and two chambers at the bottom called the left and right ventricles. An electrical signal is sent out at the top part of the heart to keep all of the chambers communicating properly. This signal tells the atria muscles to contract, which then makes the blood flow into the ventricles and makes the ventricles muscles contract so that blood can travel to the rest of the body. Those with SVT have a broken signal at the top of the heart, which causes the atria muscles to contract too soon and results in supraventricular arrhythmias.
Doctors aren’t quite sure what triggers the supraventricular arrhythmias. They understand how it works, but the causes are a bit unknown. Some causes may include stress, lack of sleep, substance abuse, heart disease, medications or stimulants, smoking, surgery, pregnancy, heart failure, or other health conditions such as Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. It’s important for individuals experiencing arrhythmias to work with their doctors to understand what’s triggering the rapid heart beat.
Symptoms of Supraventricular Tachycardia
Aside from the abnormal heart rhythm and rapid heart beats, individuals may experience other symptoms as a result of the recurrent arrhythmias. These symptoms may include:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- a fast drop in blood pressure
While this condition is rarely life-threatening, these symptoms can be a disturbance. Especially when they’re as severe as causing individuals to faint or have pain. It’s very important for individuals experiencing these symptoms to notify their doctors so that they can be properly treated.
Types of Supraventricular Tachycardia
While the presence of a rapid heart beat may indicate that an individual has SVT, there are several types of SVT. These include:
- Atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT): this is the most common type of SVT. This type centers around the atrioventricular node (AV node), which is part of the electrical system that coordinates the top of the heart. The AV node is supposed to electrically connect with the atria and ventricles. However, with this type, the signal takes a circular route around the AV node rather than going through it. This results in the heart beating prematurely.
- Atrioventricular reciprocating tachycardia (AVRT): this type also causes the signal to take a circular route, but it’s due to an extra electrical connection called an accessory pathway. Essentially, the signal travels down the chambers and then an additional signal travels up the accessory pathway or vice versa. This pattern continues until the signal is interrupted. AVNRT and AVRT may spark paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), which is a fancy term for a short-circuit arrhythmia. Those who experience PSVT describe the feeling like having a panic attack.
- Atrial tachycardia (AT): while the other types tend to happen at the top of the heart, this type occurs in the atria. Essentially, an extra node sparks electrical signals in the atria, which triggers a fast heartbeat. On rare occasions, people may suffer from multifocal atrial tachycardia, which means there’s more than one place the signals are firing.
Two common conditions that people may be diagnosed with is atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the atria fires up multiple fast and random signals. Atrial flutter is similar, but not as random. Both may feel like the heart is trembling rather than beating.
Doctors are able to diagnose SVT through a series of tests. These tests even allow doctors to pinpoint the type of SVT an individual might have. These tests include an EKG test, a Holter monitor, electrocardiogram, a stress test, and/or an echocardiogram.
Treatment for Supraventricular Tachycardia
If the symptoms of SVT persist and a doctor has diagnosed an individual with this condition, doctors may undergo a series of treatments to correct the misfiring of the electrical signals. These treatments may include:
- Vagal maneuvers: a cardiologist may suggest that individuals first try to stop an episode by holding their breath or coughing. These maneuvers may be able to interrupt the signal that’s causing the arrhythmias causing the heart rate to slow back down.
- Medications: Beta-blockers are a common type of medication that doctors will typically start with to treat this condition. If those don’t work, doctors may try other types of anti-arrhythmic medications.
- Carotid sinus massage: this massage applies gentle pressure on the carotid artery in an attempt to slow the heart rate down. Since this treatment deals with manipulation to an artery, it’s one that should be performed by a trained professional.
- Cardioversion: if the treatments above don’t work, doctors may try to send a shock to the individual’s heart to restore a normal rhythm.
- Catheter ablation: if treatments aren’t working, doctors may need to thread catheters through the blood vessels leading to the heart. These catheters either have tips that emit extreme heat or cold to damage a small part of the heart’s tissue. This procedure allows doctors to create an electrical block along the pathway that is causing the arrhythmia.
- Pacemaker: this type of treatment is fairly rare, but doctors may opt to implant a pacemaker to consistently release electrical impulses to encourage the heart to beat at a normal rate.
While SVT can be successfully treated, there isn’t a cure. It’s extremely important for individuals with this heart condition to regularly see a cardiologist and make sure that they are properly notating all of the symptoms and treatments.