Sick sinus syndrome (SSS) is a
disease in which the heart's natural pacemaker (sinoatrial node) located in the upper
right heart chamber (right atrium) becomes damaged. It is no longer able to generate
normal heartbeats at the normal rate. It may be a result of other health conditions that
damage the sinoatrial node (SA node) over time or may be a result of certain medicines.
This can result in heartbeats that are too slow or too fast, or heartbeats that
alternate between slow and fast. Sick sinus syndrome is also sometimes called
Any condition that can cause heart damage can damage the SA node. This includes:
Hypothyroidism, hypothermia, and electrolyte problems generally can
Sick sinus syndrome affects men and women equally, and can occur at
any age. But most cases of SSS occur in people over age 70. This is because aging tends
to slow the heart rate and lower SA node function.
You are at greater risk for SSS if you have any of these:
You are also at greater risk of you take medicines such as beta
blockers, calcium channel blockers, or digoxin, or medicines to treat arrhythmias.
You may have sick sinus syndrome with few or no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
Your healthcare provider may
suspect sick sinus syndrome based on your symptoms, but they are common in many other
diseases. To diagnose your condition, your healthcare provider will do an
electrocardiogram (ECG). This is a machine that records your heart's rate and rhythm. If
you don't have symptoms at the time of your ECG, it may look normal.
Other possible tests include:
You may have sick sinus syndrome
without symptoms and not need treatment. But if you do have symptoms and need treatment,
there are options. They include:
Sick sinus syndrome often gets
worse over time. When your heart beats too slowly, or too quickly, it can lead to
The aging of your SA node causes most cases of sick sinus syndrome, and there’s no way to prevent that. But you can help prevent complications by learning as much as you can about the disease and working closely with your cardiologist to find the best treatment.
You can also make healthy lifestyle changes:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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