What is Sick Sinus Syndrome

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Sick Sinus Syndrome affects on average three out of every 10,000 people in the United States. This condition becomes more common as we age.

Sick sinus syndrome is a type of bradycardia in which the sinus node or sinoartrial does not work properly. The sinus node is in the upper right chamber or the atrium of the heart; and is a small group of cells. This small group of cells contains cells commonly referred to as the pacemaker. The pacemaker cells generate the electrical signals that control the rhythm and pace of the heartbeat. These electrical signals travel from the sinus mode to the AV node. From here, the signal is sent along pathways that extend into the ventricles. This is what causes the ventricles to contract and pump blood into our lungs and throughout our bodies.

Sick Sinus Syndrome is not really a specific disease but is a collection of symptoms of signs that signify the SA node is not working properly.

Diagnosing Sick sinus syndrome can be very difficult since many people have no symptoms at all until it is in an advanced stage. The first symptom that most people recognize is a consistently slow heart rate or what is better known as bradycardia. The heart rate often falls to 40 to 50 beats per minute or even less before a person even realizes it.

Other symptoms of sick sinus syndrome include:
* Fainting can occur when irregular heart rhythm affects the hearts ability to pump an adequate amount of blood to the brain.
* Exhaustion and weakness can also be a sign that the heart is not pumping like it should. When the heart is not pumping an adequate amount of blood, the body sends the blood to the vital organs, thus allowing the blood flow to the muscles of the legs and arms to be inadequate. This can cause a person to feel weak, have less energy, and be unable to do many tasks that they once enjoyed due to tiredness.
* Shortness of breath: Many patients with sick sinus syndrome describe their shortness of breath as not being able to take in enough air or they are just plain out of breath.
* Chest pains, sometimes referred to as angina, can indicate that the heart is not getting enough blood.
* Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing in the middle of the night. Sleep apnea may be one of the contributing factors to Sick Sinus Syndrome since it reduces the amount of oxygen that is supplied to the heart.
* Uncertainty or confusion is another symptom of this condition. In some cases, since the blood supply to the brain is inadequate, confusion and errors in judgment can occur. The individual may appear to seen sleepy, have problems with balance, or seem to be agitated or anxious.

If you or someone you love has any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care.

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