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Long QT Syndrome – causes, side effects and treatments at

Thursday, May 10, 2018 by

The long QT syndrome (LQTS) is a state where there is a prolonged QT interval on the surface of the electrocardiogram (ECG). While the condition is initially caused by gene mutations, it can be acquired as a result of certain drugs, electrolyte imbalances, and a slow heart rate (bradyarrhythmia). People with LQTS are at high risk of sudden cardiac death as a result of ventricular tachyarrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm in the ventricle), as well as loss of consciousness.

In particular, there are two types of inherited LQTS.

  • The Romano-Ward syndrome is a common form of LQTS that come from inheriting a single genetic variant of the condition from one parent.
  • The Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome is a more serious form of LQTS that occurs when children inherit genetic variants from both parents. The condition is seen much earlier in life, with most babies born with this LQTS are deaf. This could also be linked to a newborn’s risk of having sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Acquired LQTS, on the other hand, is caused by at least 100 medications – a condition referred to as drug-induced LQTS. It can also be caused by low potassium in the body (hypokalemia) or pre-existing medical conditions.

Some of the medications that can cause a drug-induced LQTS include the following.

  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressant and antipsychotic medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Diuretics
  • Drugs required to maintain a normal heart rhythm
  • Anti-nausea medication

Known risk factors and symptoms of long QT syndrome

One of the primary risk factors for LQTS is the presence of the disorder in first-degree relatives, as the condition is inherited in a parent with a mutated gene. Moreover, children and teenagers who experience unexplained fainting or those with a history of unexplained seizures and cardiac arrests are also at risk.

Meanwhile, the risk of having an acquired LQTS increases with prolonged medication use. Those with low potassium, magnesium, or calcium in their blood levels are also considered high-risk, as well as those with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.

Symptoms of LQTS include:

  • Fainting. One of the hallmark symptoms of LQTS, this is caused when the heart suddenly beats erratically. Unlike regular fainting spells where there are warning signs such as feeling lightheaded or blurred vision, LQTS-induced syncopes (the medical term for fainting) occur with little to no warning.
  • Seizures. If the heart continues its abnormal rhythm, the brain will lack oxygen and may cause seizures.
  • Sudden death. This occurs when the heart continues its abnormal rhythm.

For the most part, people experience their first LQTS-related symptom upon reaching the age of 40, and it can occur even in sleep.

Body systems affected by long QT syndrome

LQTS is a genetic condition that primarily affects the heart. While some people do not display any symptoms, a usual complication of the disorder is an arrhythmia, that is, a sudden change in cardiac rhythm.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent or relieve long QT syndrome

LQTS is primarily a congenital disease, but having a healthy diet can improve cardiac functions. At best, this may reduce the chances of experiencing the condition. Here are some suggested food items to maintain a healthy heart.

  • Yogurt – This probiotic-rich food can protect the body against gum disease, which can increase the risk for heart disease if left unchecked.
  • Raisins – Aside from fighting gum disease, the antioxidants that are found in raisins also inhibit inflammation which can cause heart problems.
  • Whole grains – Those who eat a lot of whole grains reduce their risk of heart disease and lower their cholesterol levels.
  • Beans – Eating beans helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the body, lowering the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
  • Salmon and fish – Oily fish such as salmon and tuna are full of omega-3 fatty acids which lower blood pressure and prevent irregular heart rhythm.
  • Apples – The famous aphorism holds true: Apples are potent sources of antioxidant flavonoid compounds which prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This inhibits plaque buildup in the arteries.
  • Green tea – The health benefits of green tea are from studies on heart diseases. In particular, catechins in green tea inhibit inflammation which can lead to heart problems.
  • Wine and alcohol – In moderation, drinking can protect the heart by improving HDL cholesterol levels and preventing blood clots.

Treatment and management options for long QT syndrome

Treatment options for LQTS primarily address symptoms such as fainting and cardiac arrest. Healthcare professionals will usually prescribe beta-blockers to prevent sudden death. Those who have survived LQTS-induced cardiac arrests may be provided with an implantable automatic cardioverter-defibrillator or ICD.

In general, those with LQTS are discouraged from possible triggers such as jumping into cold water or even amusement park rides.

Where to learn more


LQTS is a state where there is a prolonged QT interval on the surface of the electrocardiogram (ECG). It is inherited in a parent with a mutated gene, but it can be acquired as a result of certain drugs, electrolyte imbalances, and bradyarrhythmia.

In general, those with LQTS are discouraged from possible triggers such as jumping into cold water or even amusement park rides.

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