Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, sometimes referred to as just WPW syndrome, is a rare heart condition that causes tachycardia symptoms. What’s causing this rapid heart rate is two electrical pathways signal your heart to beat rather than the normal one. And because this extra pathway can send rapid signals faster, it can potentially disrupt the normal electrical signals.
For the most part, why this heart condition causing WPW syndrome develops is unknown. Yet, a gene mutation or inheritance have been identified in few cases. And although the extra electrical pathway associated with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is present at birth, your tachycardia symptoms may not be realized until your teenage years or later.
For some, their extra electrical pathway doesn’t cause a fast heart rate nor any other symptoms. Known as Wolff-Parkinson-White pattern, their health condition only gets discovered by chance.
For those that do have WPW syndrome symptoms, the occurrence of tachycardia may be accompanied by:
Your rapid heart rate will likely occur suddenly and can last for few seconds to several hours. And exercise induced tachycardia is common, causing premature fatigue.
For many with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, these episodes of tachycardia and associative symptoms won’t initially cause much of a problem. However, when this health condition is left untreated, particularly if you have heart disease, a rapid heart rate can lead to some very serious symptoms or health complications, such as:
- heart failure
- sudden death
- frequent fainting
- breathing difficulty
- ventricular fibrillation
If you have Wolff-Parkinson-White without symptoms, then treatment may not be necessary and perhaps your extra pathway will spontaneously disappear in time. Otherwise, the goal of WPW syndrome treatment is to stop or prevent tachycardia from happening.
Treatments used for keeping a rapid heart rate in check are:
- medication ~ adenosine, antiarrhythmics, amiodarone
- cardioversion therapy ~ delivery of electric current to restore normal rhythm
- vagal maneuvers ~ coughing, bearing down, putting icepack on face while you’re having tachycardia symptoms
- catheter ablation ~ radiofrequency caused destruction to small area of heart that causes extra electrical pathway
As part of your treatment for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, you should avoid certain substances that can cause a rapid heart rate, like:
Catheter ablation is a desirable treatment for WPW syndrome because it cures you from ever having another tachycardia incident.