An infant with symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome can develop heart failure. Symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid, visible pulsations of the chest
- Shortness of breath
In teenagers or young adults, symptoms of Wolff-Parkson-White syndrome may include:
- A sudden, rapid heartbeat (paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia) that often begins during exercise, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several hours
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)
In young, physically active people, these episodes usually cause few symptoms.
Later in life, if a patient has paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia due to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, they will experience more symptoms such as fainting, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Atrial fibrillation may be a particular danger if a patient has Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The extra electrical pathway can send impulses to the ventricles much faster than the normal pathway through the atrioventricular node. As a result, the ventricles contract at an extremely fast rate. This condition makes the heart very inefficient at pumping blood because the chambers are unable to fill with blood before contracting, which can be life threatening. Such a rapid heart rate can also build into ventricular fibrillation, which is fatal unless treated immediately. On rare occasions, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome can lead to a rapid, life-threatening heart rate during atrial fibrillation.
Causes and Risk Factors
Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome is present from birth and its cause is often unknown. In a small number of patients the condition is caused by a gene mutation. Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome is also associated with certain forms of congenital heart disease, such as Ebstein's anomaly.