Confounding doctors for ages, Brugada Syndrome is a scary condition because it usually hits unexpectedly, and fatally. Just imagine this: young people simply doubling over and dying from cardiac arrest, even though they never suffered from heart problems before, even though there is no history of heart disease in their family that they are aware of. To friends and family, it seems that they simply keeled over and died, out of the blue. This is oftentimes a prime example of Brugada Syndrome.
What it is and who it hits
Brugada Syndrome is actually a genetic disease. It is inherited as a dominate gene, however, many generations of family can inherit the chromosome for the disease without actually having it. This is why it is tricky to spot. Very often, the disease goes by unseen until it is too late. Brugada causes problems with the muscles in the heart, the muscles responsible for contracting the heart. This results in irregular heart palpitations, which means the blood is not pumped out of the heart and into the rest of the body properly. This is why Brugada usually manifests in fainting and then cardiac arrest.
How to Spot It
As previously stated, Brugada Syndrome is very difficult to spot. Some symptoms include difficulty breathing, infrequent and causeless fevers, thrashing at night, nightmares, fainting spells, heart pains, and heaviness in the chest. If you have a history of heart disease in your family at all, it isn’t a bad idea to get a genetic test for Brugada Syndrome, to see if you are at risk for it.
What You Can Do About It
Treatment options are still somewhat limited, as Brugada Syndrome was not officially classified as a disease until the early 1990s. The primary treatment is to surgically install an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) (which is something very much like a pacemaker, but is permanent, whereas a pacemaker is temporary). There is a new strain of drugs, called transient outward current blockers (for example, quinidine), which can be used hand-in-hand with ICD to prevent the arrhythmias (the irregular heart contractions). If you have experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to see your doctor. He or she can help you determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Brugada Syndrome. In many cases, they aren’t—but it could mean you have other heart problems. Brugada Syndrome can be spotted on an electrocardiogram (ECG). If the diagnosis is not clear, additional tests using sodium channel blockers can be carried out. Paired with a genetic test for history of the disease, the diagnosis can be made certain.
Getting Along with Brugada Syndrome
So long as Brugada Syndrome is diagnosed, it can probably be prevented. It is when it goes undiagnosed for a long period of time—until an arrhythmia causes brain damage or health. But once an ICD is installed and the heart is closely and regularly monitored, patients suffering from Brugada can live quite normal lives. They can participate in almost all kinds of physical activity and sports, just like anyone else. Sports that would jostle around the ribcage, and hence the ICD, should be avoided. Machinery and places involving magnets and electromagnetic fields should also be avoided. Certain drugs, like those altering the heart rythms, should also be avoided.