Wolff-Parkinson-White or WPW syndrome is a common heart condition that can cause heart abnormalities (faster beats) episodes. The cause is due to an extra electrical connection in the heart, and this problem will be present since birth (congenital), but the symptoms may not develop until later in life.
Sometimes, the extra electrical connection won’t cause any signs and only be visible through an electrocardiogram (ECG) test. In many cases, the syndrome develops in otherwise healthy young adults. If the results are positive through an ECG, you will require further tests to determine the treatments required.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome symptoms
During WPW syndrome, you may experience abrupt heart racing episodes known as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). During those episodes, you might experience symptoms like:
- Fluttering or pounding heartbeat
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fainting (passing out)
The SVT episodes can last for seconds to hours, and they vary from person to person. Some might experience on daily, while others experience them a few times a year. The occurrence can be random, but excessive drinking of alcohol or caffeine can trigger the episodes.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome causes
During heartbeats, its muscular walls tighten and squeeze to force blood out and around the body. After that, they relax, allowing the heart to fill with blood again, controlled by electrical signals.
During WPW syndrome, there is an extra electrical connection in the heart to allow electrical signals to bypass the standard route and create a short circuit, leading the signals to travel in a loop to cause episodes where the heart beats faster.
The extra electrical connection sometimes can strand the heart muscle that develops while the unborn baby grows in the womb. There is no apparent reason for the cause; it just occurs randomly, and in rare scenarios, it runs in families.
WPW syndrome treatments
The abnormal heart racing episodes due to WPW syndrome are often harmless and don’t last long. Although even if your symptoms are mild or occur occasionally, you should have regular check-ups. Post treatments, your cardiologist might recommend further tests to either stop or prevent the episodes from occurring.
The primary treatments are:
Vagal maneuvers: A technique that helps to stimulate the nerve that helps to slow down the extra electrical signal in your heart.
Medications: A injection of medicine that helps to block the abnormal electrical signals in your heart
Cardioversion: An electric shock therapy that jolts the heart rhythm back to normal.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022