SVT - anyone got this?

Just been talking to my uncle and he has supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and there are other people in my family such as great uncles and cousins who have heart problems. This conversation has gotten me worried.

Basically I get heart palpatations from time to time and a few nights ago it felt like my heart was ""fluttering"" and it was extremely uncomfortable. I have noticed the more of my inhaler i've had to take (whether increased preventor or more for general relief) the more palps I get. Usually I will get them at night (or I notice them more) and I CANNOT sleep when theyre happening, very frustrating. Can last for like 3 hours. I also think I have experienced periods of it happening rather quickly and I feel very light headed, beats super fast (alot faster than these night time symptoms) and its gone as quick as its come. I've had 24 hour ECG done but picked up nothing that they didnt put down to ""just how my heart works"" but I didnt have a particularly bad day that day.

Also my cons has said that my symptoms in day to day life are a lot worse than my asthma actually is. I am going to push to get a monitor on when I'm sleeping to look at oxygen sats because I am exhausted most of time (had thryroid etc checked and all fine). I have absolutely no doubt that I have asthma as the two times I forgot to take my preventor (oops) I had attacks, the cold makes my lungs feel like theyre closing, cigarettes and cigar smoke has triggered many attacks and I respond to meds. I'm just stuck wondering what else it is...... I'm having more tests done soon, exercise ones.

However now I am worried that I'm having heart problems too and getting confused.

Can anyone explain it in more detail and how it conflicts with asthma? Apparently asthma meds can set it off...

12 Replies

  • Ive had SVT.

    Asthma meds do increase the pulse rate as they dont just work on the airways a certain amount widdens the arties etc and therfore increase heart rate. It is most likely that as its related on when you take your meds to be due to that. An asthma attack can cause your heart to beat faster and this is different to SVT. When youve been in hospital if have a SVT rythem is will be picked up as when having an asthma attack is the most likely cause of SVT.

    Does that make sense?

  • Hi Unigirl, I have had SVT for many years. Like Bird says, it is different to a generally increased heart rate due to asthma medications. SVT is not harmful, it just feels strange. I've had episodes which have lasted a couple of hours, going at 230 beats a minute - it makes you feel a bit worn out but doesn't actually do damage (from the mouth of my cardiologist at Papworth). As far as Im aware its not hereditary, and 'heart problems' covers a myriad of things, so I wouldn't worry too much, perhaps mention it to your GP next time you see them? An ECG won't pick it up unless its actually happening at that time, because at other times the heart is beating completely normally.

    I also have a generally fast heart rate (120 beats a minute) due to all the medications Im on, this is not SVT, just a side effect - and again it doesn't cause doctors, including cardiologist any concerns, as its a known side effect of many of my medications.

    Lynda :)

  • Thank you for your replies. I am a worry wort, especially when I am in limbo waiting for more cons appointments to hopefully see what is going on. Whatever is going on in my little body I would rather know and deal with it, don't like being in the dark.

    Wow, Lynda I don't think I've ever reached 230, i imagine that is crazy. I was just worried because when I have attcks it makes me very tired (understandably) and when I am tired my memory is dire so its terribly hard to remember what happened. Although once or twice I have noticed that my heart goes first..... it starts flitting away crazily and thats when my chest tightens too. It happens rather quickly but has usually been coming on for a good half hour or so.

    Good to know palps arent cause for concern... I worry that it cant be good long term... to be honest they just annoy me when I wanna sleep. I do not like being kept up.... I do get quite a bit of reading and catching up with people done though.

  • I dont mean to over step the mark here but my gut is telling me the palps you have described leading to chest tightness sound abit of a panic setting in either subconscious or conscious (not saying all attack are!) and maybe there is an element of here we go again

  • I have to say, and this goes for basically all asthmatics, it can be really tough to distinguish the early stages of asthma attacks with panic attacks, before all the more fun symptoms kick in you can get the SOB with chest tightness and palps either way, and if you take your inhaler and feel better its completely natural to assume that it was asthma, but another issue with asthmatics is that getting asthma symptoms IS really scary, coz we know what can happen next, so actually inhaler can solve the anxiety issue (as well as any underlying asthma stuff which may well trigger the anxiety- further complicating things)

    Salbutamol is pretty harmless for the vast majority of people and so it probably doesnt matter if you are effectivly treating anxiety with salb, although it deffo wont help the palps (sigh! i also get the lying awake my whole body shaking with my heart beat thing too! lol!) but it could be the case, as Bird says, that some attacks need treating differently and preventing differently. And even if it doesnt help the asthma - you describe yourself as a worrier, and it might help combat that - so worth discussing with GP i think! its easy to worry that the asthma side of things will be ignored when anxiety and panic attacks are mentioned. it is a sad fact that some idiots misunderstand panic attacks as the person needing to 'toughen up' or some such ridiculous thing. the only thing i can say is that in my experience i have had less xcomments about anxiety since being treated for it, they will ask about my meds and i will just simply comment that they effectivly treat my anxiety symptoms (like you i was a bit of a worrier although mine was very specifically focused on being sick - sadly antiDs didnt help my breathing at all, but i went in with a great deal of optimism) and so far A&E have never thought my symptoms were down to anything other than asthma, and certainly have never put it down to anxiety. I know its still a scary idea but hope that reassures you somewhat!

    Anyways - as with anything on here - we cant see you! possibly worth thinknig about/researching and discussing with your GP. As i said, early asthma and panic do look and behae similarily (even blood gases will be similar) and, as i suspect would be the case with you if there was a panic element, is further complicated when its a combination of the two (each making each other worse hehehe! Ive had one panic attack during an asthma attack and it felt horrendous!!) AUK used to have a symptom comparison sheet to help but i cant find it!!

    Hope you find some answers soon!

    In regards to SVT, i know i can get really bad palps and have a perfectly normal sinus tachycardia - so whilst i dont know whats going on with you its perfectly possible to feel like your heart is going mad and for it to be fine! GP will know more though!!

  • Soph so you have both asthma and anxiety?

    Although I am a worrier in general my last attack with heart beating wildly was when I was relaxing with friends and wasnt thinking about anything stressful - not back at uni and no job so not loads to worry about. Also during I know I wasnt panicking when it started or during either. I must admit I dont know much about anxiety attacks and dont really understand. Oh dear everything is very complicated.

  • HI Unigirl, dont sound so worried bless you :) Anxiety/panic attacks can happen sporadically out of the blue and for no clear reason - you dont have to be consciously aware that you are anxious if that makes sense? I think thats one of the reasons they seem so strange. My friend used to have panic attacks and she would be feeling perfectly okay one minute and having one the next.

    The NHS list the following possible physical symptoms of an anxiety/panic attack:

    a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly (palpitations)



    shortness of breath

    a choking sensation

    chest pain

    feeling sick

    of course you dont have to feel all of these at once!

    Hope that helps x

  • HI Unigirl, dont sound so worried bless you :) Anxiety/panic attacks can happen sporadically out of the blue and for no clear reason - you dont have to be consciously aware that you are anxious if that makes sense

    The NHS article does mention that a panic attack is a combination of both psychological and physical symptoms so I would imagine you would be feeling at least some sort of uncomfortable feeling in the range of fear, panic, anxiety, a sense of threat, etc. Or alternatively one would have physical sensations that as a group say ""I'm fearful"" despite there being no obvious reason for it. Just as a chemically depressed can feel blue for no ""reason"", one can feel physically fearful or anxious without a clear reason.

    I'm a little leary of saying that one would be totally devoid (completely inconsciuos of) of any sense of fear/threat/flight/freeze/fight related feeling be it in physical or emotional form.

    One thing that the NHS description omits is the sudden onset/peak criteria used on the DSM 4Tr/5 definition: panic attacks come on suddenly and peak within 10 or so minutes. The DSM 4Tr definition for panic attacks is given here (scroll down to the middle of the page past all the intro stuff) :

  • I have anxiety although ive decided with the help of my cons that this isnt impacting my resp symptoms, it is something we discussed at length. As i said, i have had one panic attack during an asthma attack (very very weird sensation) and one not during an asthma attack. I tend to feel anxious during mine, but like you, im a bit of a worrier at times, my worry is not about my health as such - rather of being sick (i think id rather have my legs cut off than be sick! lol!) so anything thats not going to make me be sick i respond to proportionately. Its not at all strange to find not being able to breath scary and if it was discovered that you were prone to panic attack type things then if that was triggerd by the stress of asthma attacks then it could be that you feel worse than you would with 'just' the asthma component, so by controlling the anxiety (medication or therapy) then you feel better which in turn will reduce the anxiety!

    Another interesting point is that i personally find that when im off medication I am much more tired, due to worrying and also due to the fact that hyperventilating is weirdly exhausting, even if its only slightly - so it could help to explain the excessine tiredness thing.

    It might be worth looking into. You also may find that whilst 'normally' docs will go for therapy and then if that fails go to medication, they may go straight to medication with you as a severe asthmatic they'll want to work out which symptoms are anxiety (and it may turn out that none of them are - as was the case for me) but you may still notice that you feel better. Its very easy when living with a cronic condition to just accept that you feel ill mentally and physically, but the aim is to feel as well as possible!

    Does that make sense?

  • thanks Lynda, it is so weird that its not always triggered and can happen randomly.

    Soph how do you clearly distinguish and also how could you tell both were happening at same time? I think I am getting a clearer idea. I would be very nervous to even utter the words ""panic"" and ""attack"" in the cons office or any doctors office because I don't want them to have any excuse to try and dismiss me asthma wise. However would be great to get all the answers and know exactly what is going on.

    The most frustrating thing with feeling ill with asthma I find is that you get better... before it all happens again.

    The thought of taking more medication makes me feel uncomfortable. I already feel like I have quite a few side effects that like to raise their ugly head and I think taking more would lead to more side effects. However I dream of the day I don't feel tired and dont need 11 hours a night, wont be ideal when I enter the working world! It makes sense though, thank you soph. Do you find you get any side effects of this extra med?

  • I can tell by the type of fear im feeling. For me , even at the time, i can tell the fear is irrational, sometimes i wouldnt describe it as fear as such, just that im really concerned about something and nothing. its often a phobia response for me, so im scared of something that i know cant harm me (well - technically for me it can be harmful to be sick, but my response is disproptional) over time ive learnt to clearly distinguish the two, to the point thsat for me its second nature which is which. i think it comes with time and awareness.

    The one that was both i really was hyperventilating because the asthma attack came first and i was on my own in the middle of nowhere and the panic was the 999 operatore being particularily useless at helping me and i couldnt really talk and i had to walk quite far to get to the ambulance. it was much harder to breathe as normally during an attack its like as long as im working really hard i can accept that i feel like im short of air, but when panicing also i just couldnt accept that i wasnt getting enough air so was working really really really hard to breathe really fast to try to compensate for the attack completely, which obviously just made me feel worse! Again, i could clearly tell it was both as as soon as i was in the abmulance all the panicky trying to get to help bit went away and i was left with just the asthma bit. does that make any sense? its quite hard to describe a sensation!!

    in terms of AntiDs. I'm on my 4th different one. one i stopped due to side effects, they werent horrendous, more strange, i used to get things that looked like hypnic jerks (the thing when you feel like you're falling when you're going to sleep) but i didnt feel like i was falling, and i would do it about 20 times as i was going to sleep, it was a bit annoying as i sleep with my arms in front of my face so sometimes would hit myself hard in hte face! lol! the second lot worked amazingly for me, but were really strong ones, and i didnt like that, and hospitals never had them, and i was being admitted and going into withdrawal really commonly and its a nasty one for withdrawal. the third lot just didnt work for me and so now im on some more. Im a bit unusual in having to try so many, but id rather try lots and get it right! same with asthma drugs, no point taking something that doesnt work! the side effectsd list for AntiDs is pretty extensive and scary sounding (my mates read the list and joked that you'd need antiDs if you got all the side effects!!) but i personally have not experienced anything awful!! Everyone is different, but you can always stopped -you've not lost anything!! If you are really against meds then there are non-medication options, the only issue with those is the waiting lists are horrendous!

    Talking to GP is tough. I personally have made it clear to my cons that now we've established its not impacting my lungs i don't want him discussing them with me as its not his specialty. My GP has always been great about it. stress is a known asthma trigger, and managing that is as important as managing exposure to other triggers. dealing with a cronic condition IS hard and its not weird that you worry and get anxious. I saw a psychologist once who said she'd be worried if i didnt have any anxiety about the situation!! Explain that its something you feel is impacting your life and you want to ensure its not impacting your asthma control maybe?? that kind of puts a spin on it so it doesnt scream anxiety attack, but helps get you on some treatment.

  • Thanks for the info beth, I love this board, keeps me sane, everyone is so lovely and will try and be as helpful as poss and find things out for you. :) what your saying makes sense, my mum wasnt there for this last attack when I remember my heart going first, but the attack before that (was the usual asthma attack) she said I seemed very calm despite my struggling for breathe. But for the last one (palps first) I was in a sort of daze... there wasnt enough thought going on to worry.

    Soph, if you dont mind me asking, was there something that triggered panic attacks in general, was there something traumatic before the first one? a lot of sites seem to talk about some big traumatic trigger...

    Oh dear the attack in middle of nowhere sounds terrifying. it does make sense yes... im impressed how much you managed to do. glad you found an anti-d that works for you.

    I think I will try and write down all symptoms next time as I am so forgetful these days i'll never remember when I get to docs.

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