Comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried died this week after a “long illness,” his family confirmed in a statement.
“In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honor,” the statement, shared on Gottfried’s Twitter account, said.
Gottfried died of recurrent ventricular tachycardia caused by myotonic dystrophy type 2, his friend and publicist Glenn Schwartz said in a statement.
But what is myotonic dystrophy? And what is ventricular tachycardia? Here’s what you need to know about the heart rhythm condition:
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What is ventricular tachycardia? What are the symptoms?
Ventricular tachycardia is a heart rhythm problem, or arrhythmia, caused by “irregular electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart,” according to the Mayo Clinic. While a person’s heart usually beats about 60 to 100 times per minute at rest, a person with ventricular tachycardia can see 100 or more beats per minute.
The rapid heartbeat can prevent the heart from pumping enough blood into the body. Sometimes episodes of the condition can last just a few seconds, but longer episodes can be life-threatening. The condition can also cause the heart to stop.
Symptoms during an episode of ventricular tachycardia can include chest pain, dizziness, pounding heartbeat, lightheadedness and shortness of breath. But more extreme episodes can cause fainting, loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest.
What is myotonic dystrophy type II?
Myotonic dystrophy type II is an “inherited muscular dystrophy that affects the muscles and other body systems,” according to the National Institutes of Health. That usually involves muscle tensing and muscle weakness, pain and stiffness.
Symptoms usually begin during a person’s 20s or 30s. They can include not being able to relax certain muscles after using them, slurred speech and more. Less common symptoms include “abnormalities of the electrical signals that control the heartbeat,” cataracts and diabetes.
How is ventricular tachycardia treated?
There are some treatment options for patients with ventricular tachycardia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. One option is a radiofrequency ablation, a procedure that destroys the cells that can cause the condition. However, it is less effective in people with structural heart disease.
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator is another option, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The device sends an electrical pulse to the heart “to reset a dangerously irregular heartbeat.” Patients may also be able to take several medications.
No treatment may be necessary if a person does not have underlying heart disease and episodes do not last long, according to Cedars-Sinai.
What can put a person at risk for ventricular tachycardia?
Any condition straining the heart or causing damage to heart tissue can increase a person’s risk of ventricular tachycardia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But several factors can contribute to heart signaling problems and be tied to ventricular tachycardia. These factors include prior heart attack or other heart conditions that caused scarring on heart tissue, coronary artery disease, the use of stimulants and more.
Contributing: Edward Segarra