Electrical signals in the heart usually travel along certain pathways to tell the heart to beat regularly. People with WPW syndrome are born with an extra electrical pathway that changes the way these signals travel.
Symptoms of the arrhythmia that occur in WPW syndrome may include palpitations, chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, or faintness. Some people experience few to no symptoms. Others may have symptoms twice a week or more often.
Most people with WPW syndrome do not have any other heart problems. Sometimes WPW syndrome is diagnosed during a routine test for heart disease, such as an electrocardiogram. Your doctor may recommend testing for WPW syndrome if you have atrial fibrillation, known as A-fib, or a family history of WPW syndrome. You may be asked to wear a Holter or event monitor that records your heart’s electrical activity while you do your normal activities.
If your doctor diagnoses you with WPW syndrome, you may need medicine to control or prevent a fast heartbeat. If medicine does not work, you may need an electrical shock to the heart to restore its rhythm. Catheter ablation is another treatment that can cure WPW syndrome in most people. If untreated, WPW syndrome can cause the heart to beat much faster than it should, which is called tachycardia, and it can increase the risk of sudden cardiac death.
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) leads or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.