Living with a pacemaker: a new life with several restrictions. However, one common question is, “can you sunbathe with a pacemaker?.”
A pacemaker is a small device that doctors implant in your chest. Its function is to send electric signals to your heart to control the beat when your heartbeat becomes slow.
However safe and secure the procedure and function are, many have several queries about living with a pacemaker. For example – can the sun affect your pacemaker or pacemaker site? Or can you tan with a pacemaker?
If you have the same queries, scroll down.
What Is A Pacemaker?
A pacemaker is a matchbox-sized electrical device that regulates your heartbeat. Doctors implant the device under the skin of your chest, performing minor surgery, which is safe with fewer complications.
The device usually sends electrical impulses to your heart muscle when irregular and slow heartbeat and rhythm.
Your body has a built-in pacemaker in your heart, the sinoatrial (SA) node. The SA node generates electrical signals to start your heart to beat. This procedure results in your regular heartbeat.
However, often the electrical signals suffer from several problems, causing fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat. One such issue is arrhythmia, for which doctors often recommend a pacemaker. It restores regular heart rate and rhythm by generating electrical impulses.
In addition, pacemakers also help treat fainting spells, congestive heart failure, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, etc.
When Do You Need A Pacemaker?
When your heart faces trouble maintaining its regular rhythm and rate, your doctor may recommend you a pacemaker. It would be best if you had a pacemaker when you have-
- A slow heartbeat
- Irregular or too fast heartbeat
- Certain types of heart failure
Your doctor will perform several tests to determine the necessity of a pacemaker for you. Moreover, he will decide which type will suit your condition.
You may ask what leads you to condition, needing a pacemaker. Well, the symptoms may occur for several reasons that include-
- Changes to your heart tissue due to age
- Heart disease
- Previous heart surgery or heart attack
- Congenital heart conditions
- Certain health conditions – hypothyroidism, sarcoidosis, pericarditis, myocarditis, etc.
How Does A Pacemaker Work?
A pacemaker helps control your irregular heartbeat. Usually, it has two parts – the leads and a pulse generator. The pulse generator accommodates the battery and a tiny computer. Usually, doctors place it under your chest’s skin.
On the other hand, the leads are threaded via the veins into your heart, implanting into the heart muscle. These leads transmit impulses to the heart muscle from the pulse generator, sensing your heart’s electrical activity, too.
Now, what do these impulses do? They make the heart contract, creating heartbeats.
Pacemakers can be of different types, and depending on your condition, your pacemaker may have one to three leads.
Types Of Pacemakers
Pacemakers are available in different types. Depending on your heart condition, the doctor usually chooses a suitable pacemaker for you. The different types include-
- Single-lead pacemakers have one lead that sends impulses to the upper chamber – the right atrium or the lower chamber – the right ventricle.
- Dual-chamber pacemakers use one lead that sends signals to both the right atria and the right ventricle.
- Biventricular pacemakers are a particular type that uses three leads that helps sync both sides of your heartbeat. It sends impulses to the right atrium, right ventricle, and left ventricle.
- Wireless pacemakers have a single device that combines the pulse generator and electrodes. Doctors usually implant this type of pacemaker into your right ventricles, which is about the size of a capsule.
People with an implanted pacemaker have one question in common, “what can interfere with a pacemaker?” Can sun heat affect the pacemakers?”
Many live in constant fear of visiting areas with intense heat and sunlight. However, you can lose your worry. Sun doesn’t affect the functionality of your pacemaker. Trust me, the sun heat can’t pass through the layer of your body tissue and heat a pacemaker case to burn you.
Neither exposure to the sun harm your incision site.
However, doctors often suggest you avoid sunbathing for years after surgery as it can cause itching and redness in your incision area. However, many don’t find exposure to the sun an issue. But never say never to the problems with the heart.
Therefore, it’s wise to take some precautions. Use extra sunscreen or sun protectors to avoid itchiness or redness. The sun and ultraviolet rays may not affect your pacemaker; it will increase the darkness of your scar.
Can You Tan With A Pacemaker In The Tanning Bed?
Living with a pacemaker is not as easy as it sounds. You have to maintain some ways of life, even with a simple routine task. One such activity is tanning is a tan with a bed.
Tanning is making your skin brownish with sun exposure. Usually, ultraviolet rays used to take skin don’t affect the skin. However, with pacemakers, extra precaution is always prudent.
Some of the precautions include-
- Use a tanning bed with a lower intensity to avoid burns in the skin.
- Keep the pacemaker area covered to avoid scar darkening.
- Apply an extra layer of sunscreen lotion over your scar.
- You can also place a Band-Aid on the scar area to limit the darkening of the skin.
- Limit your time in the sun or tanning bed. Sun is helpful to heart diseases; however, it may increase the risk of skin cancer. Especially, avoid the hottest moment of the day – between midday and 3 pm.
Do and Don’ts With Pacemaker
Can I drive my car or pass a metal detector after pacemaker surgery?
After pacemaker implementation, life becomes different, and these everyday tasks become puzzling. You remain in utter confusion and dilemma about what to do what not to do with your pacemaker.
Let’s check what you can do and can’t do with pacemakers.
- Maintain regular consultation with your doctor ta manage the issues, functionality, and safety of your pacemakers.
- Do not lift the weight above 10 pounds.
- As per doctors ‘ suggestion, avoid activities requiring pushing or pulling for six weeks or more.
- Avoid activities making you overtired or over-exhausted
- For exercise, opt for walking.
- Don’t hold your phone to the ear side of your pacemaker implementation area.
- Don’t keep your phone in the chest pocket – maintain a minimum six-inch distance between your pacemaker and cell phone.
- For any medical checkup, inform your doctor about your pacemaker implantation with medical history.
- Avoid driving for six months to a year.
- Avoid staying near the metal detectors or anti-theft systems for a long time. However, you can pass through them; it’s safe.
- Avoid place or appliance having high magnetic field.
- Don’t keep your headphones near the pacemaker site.
- While traveling, inform the respective authority about the pacemaker.
Living with a pacemaker is not hard-hitting but tricky. However, doing some daily activities with a pacemaker can confuse you. Therefore, it’s best to consult with your doctor for any information.
Can you sunbathe with a pacemaker? To answer your question, yes, you can. Just ensure you have covered your pacemaker site with enough sunscreen – a little extra than the rest of the part of your body. Besides, try to avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest period.
My Concierge, MD, offers expert doctors to resolve your issues with care, understanding, and support. They will enlighten you with all the details about living with a pacemaker with proper guidance and maintenance.
Remember, a pacemaker doesn’t limit your life. Instead, you can have a free, full, and healthy life with proper precautions and preservation.