Sick Sinus Syndrome

What happens when your heart sends out erratic electrical signals?

The sinus node (also known as the sinoatrial node or SA node) is often referred to as your heart’s “natural pacemaker.” It’s an area of specialized cells in the upper right chamber of the heart that sends out evenly paced electrical signals telling your heart to beat. When the sinus node isn’t working properly, that pace becomes erratic and your heart may beat too fast, too slow or both. The condition is uncommon, and occurs most often in people older than 50.

Often there are no symptoms, but sick sinus syndrome doesn’t go away and, generally speaking, gets worse with time.

What causes sick sinus syndrome is not completely understood. However, it may be related to diseases and conditions that cause scarring or damage to your heart’s electrical system, such as cardiovascular disease, heart attack and high blood pressure. If sick sinus syndrome is causing a slow heart rate, you may need to have a pacemaker implanted. If it’s causing a fast heart rate, you may be treated with antiarrhythmic medicines or a procedure called radiofrequency ablation.

Symptoms may include:
• Slower than normal pulse (bradycardia)
• Fatigue
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Fainting or near fainting
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pains
• A sensation of rapid, fluttering heartbeats (palpitations)

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