Sinus Arrhythmia: Symptoms, Causes, and Prognosis

The human heart beats 72 times per minute. It is much like the second hand of a clock. However, the state in which heartbeats irregularly is termed ‘arrhythmia’.

Sinus arrhythmia is a type of arrhythmia in which the rhythm of the heart is either too fast or too slow.

Sinus Arrhythmia: Symptoms, Causes, and Prognosis

Sinus arrhythmia is related to the sinoatrial node (SA node) in the heart, located in the upper right chamber, close to the superior vena cava.

This part also called the pacemaker, is responsible for initiating the heartbeat and maintaining its regularity.

Sinus arrhythmia can be of various types. One such type is respiratory sinus arrhythmia.

It is a benign form and occurs commonly in children and adults without any harmful effects or heart disease.

In older individuals, it might occur due to some heart problems. In these cases, the rhythm of heart is associated with the breathing cycle.

This means that heart rate increases with inhalation and decreases with exhalation.There are other terms associated with it such as-

Bradycardia- This means slowing down of heart rate. It may occur with sinus arrhythmia. The occurrence of bradycardia means heart rate is lower than 60 beats per minute.

If there are long gaps between two consecutive beats, it indicates sinus bradycardia along with sinus arrhythmia. This is common during sleep.

Tachycardia- This condition occurs when the heart rate increases more than normal. A heart rhythm of 100 per minute indicates sinus tachycardia.

It usually occurs after exercise or during fever or stress. If it continues to occur, a doctor must be consulted.

These conditions are not related to any serious problem in young children and adults.

What Are The Symptoms?

Some people might experience symptoms such as shortness of breath but mostly, no symptoms are experienced at all by the person and it remains undiagnosed.

However, if you know how to detect your pulse, you might be able to notice a change in its rate as you breathe in and out but the change is so small that it is inconvenient without a machine to find it out.

According to Mayo Clinic, a few noticeable symptoms might include-

– Fluttering of chest

– Tachycardia

– Bradycardia

– Shortness of breath

– Lightheadedness

Sometimes, palpitations of the heart and skipping of the heartbeat is experienced, which, though common, should not be left ignored if it keeps occurring for a long time.

You must consult a doctor to immediately begin the treatment if there is some issue.

What Causes Sinus Arrhythmia?

Even though it is a common occurrence in children and adults, in older individuals it might indicate a heart problem.

Damage to the heart can prevent the SA node from maintaining the regularity of the heart rate by sending proper signals through the entire system.

SA node does not require a stimulus from outside to initiate heartbeat which means, the problem lies within.

However, medical specialists and researchers believe that it occurs through a linkage between the heart, lungs, and vascular system.

Some also believe that respiratory sinus arrhythmia might occur to reduce the workload on the heart while maintaining proper levels of blood gases.

Factors that increase the risk of arrhythmia include-

  • alcohol abuse
  • too much exercise
  • tobacco usage
  • experience of heart attack or failure
  • caffeine consumption or certain medicines and drugs

The proper reason is still unknown but research is ongoing to discover underlying causes.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Usually, to diagnose sinus arrhythmia, ECG (electrocardiogram- graph recorded through electrical signals from the heart) is used by the doctor.

It can help detect this condition by recording the irregularities in heart rate through the graph if present.

In respiratory sinus arrhythmia, the heartbeat is usually normal but the difference between two consecutive beats is different.

The doctor may tell you to go for an EKG test only if there is an indication of some other underlying heart problem because it is expensive.

There is not much to worry about sinus arrhythmia because it is quite normal and harmless.

How Is It Treated?

Sinus arrhythmia is benign and usually not related to any issue, nor does it lead to any further problems in the heart.

This is why it does not require any treatment. As a matter of fact, as one grows older, it is no more detectable.

In older people, if it occurs, doctors may diagnose the underlying cause through tests. In that case, as well, sinus arrhythmia is just a symptom and instead of treating it, the doctor finds out and treats the root problem that causes it.


In combination with sinus tachycardia or sinus bradycardia, you may experience symptoms.

Symptoms related to tachycardia include lightheadedness and chest pain and those related to bradycardia include shortness of breath, fainting, and dizziness.

Otherwise, sinus arrhythmia is totally normal and occurs very commonly. It does not really cause any complications in the body.


Sinus arrhythmia does not interfere with a normal and healthy lifestyle and most of the time is not even detected. If ever detected, as you grow older, it stops becoming noticeable.

The occurrence of sinus arrhythmia is elder people can be a source of worry. You must see a specialist so, the issue related to it can be discovered and treated as soon as possible.

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