Symptoms of sick sinus syndrome, if present at all, may be so mild that you don't realize they're cause for concern. For this reason, sick sinus syndrome may not be diagnosed until it's in an advanced stage, when the risk of complications is greater.
Call your family doctor or general practitioner if you have symptoms of sick sinus syndrome. In some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a doctor trained in diagnosing and treating heart conditions (cardiologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
- Find out if you need to follow any pre-appointment restrictions, such as changing your activity level or your diet to prepare for diagnostic tests.
- Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent changes in your life.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other medical problems for which you've recently been treated and the names of any medications you're taking, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.
- Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
- Write down the questions you want to be sure to ask your doctor.
For sick sinus syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for these symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- If you're recommending a pacemaker implantation, what's involved in the procedure?
- Will I need to stay in the hospital?
- What risks are associated with a pacemaker implantation?
- What will my recovery from surgery be like?
- Will I be able to resume normal activity? When?
- Do you expect a pacemaker will manage my symptoms permanently?
- Will I need additional surgery to maintain or, eventually, replace my pacemaker?
- Will I need any additional treatment for my condition?
- How will you monitor my health long term?
- I'm also being treated for another health problem. Will I need to change the treatments I'm using to manage that condition?
- Should my children or other close relatives be screened for heart problems?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms changed over time? If so, how?
- Do your symptoms include feeling lightheaded or dizzy?
- Have you ever fainted?
- Do you experience rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats (palpitations)?
- Do you experience squeezing, pressure, heaviness, tightness or pain in your chest (angina)?
- Does exercise or physical exertion make your symptoms worse?
- Are you aware of any history of heart problems in your family?
- Are you being treated for any other health conditions?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, check with your family members to find out if any relatives have been diagnosed with heart problems. Knowing your family health history will help your doctor plan the right diagnostic tests and treatments based on your individual risks.
Although sick sinus syndrome is rare, the symptoms of this condition mimic those of many other cardiac illnesses. If exercise makes your symptoms worse, avoid exercise until you've been seen by your doctor.
May 13, 2014
- Zipes DP, et al. Cardiac Elecrophysiology: From Cell to Bedside. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.
- Sinus node dysfunction. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular_disorders/arrhythmias_and_conduction_disorders/sinus_node_dysfunction.html. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.
- Lau CP, et al. Prospective randomized study to assess the efficacy of site and rate of atrial pacing on long-term progression of atrial fibrillation in sick sinus syndrome: Septal pacing for atrial fibrillation suppression evaluation (SAFE) study. Circulation. 2013;128:687.
- Cheng A. Diagnosis and evaluation of the sick sinus syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.
- Cheng A. Manifestations and causes of the sick sinus syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.
- Semelka M, et al. Sick sinus syndrome: A review. American Family Physician. 2013;87:691.
- What is a pacemaker? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pace/. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.
- Tracy CM, et al. 2012 ACCF/AHA/HRS focused update incorporated into the ACCF/AHA/HRS 2008 guidelines for device-based therapy of cardiac rhythm abnormalities. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2013;61:e6.
- Non-surgical procedures for atrial fibrillation (Fib or AF). American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/AboutArrhythmia/Non-surgical-Procedures-for-Atrial-Fibrillation-Fib-or-AF_UCM_423782_Article.jsp. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.
- Your guide to a healthy heart. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/other/your_guide/yg_hh.htm. Accessed Jan. 8, 2014.