Some hearts aren’t wired right.
Most hearts are configured in a very specific way: electrical signals follow a fixed pathway to keep the heart beating regularly. In people with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW), some of the signals go down an extra pathway between the heart’s upper and lower chambers instead. They speed around the heart in a circular pattern causing the heart to beat unusually fast. While episodes of fast heartbeats usually aren’t life-threatening, serious heart problems can occur.
Some people with an extra electrical pathway experience no rapid heartbeat.
Little is known about the cause of WPW, although it is sometimes associated with a genetic abnormality or congenital heart disease. WPW is more common in males than females and, in some cases, may be inherited. People of all ages, including infants, can experience the symptoms related to WPW. Those with no symptoms generally do not require treatment. For more serious conditions, treatment may involves the use of medications or a catheter-based procedure known as ablation to permanently correct the heart rhythm problems.
Symptoms may include:
• Rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats (palpitations)
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Shortness of breath
Symptoms in patients with atrial fibrillation:
• Chest pain
• Chest tightness
• Difficulty breathing
Symptoms in infants:
• Ashen color
• Restlessness or irritability
• Rapid breathing
• Poor eating