Palpitations are the unpleasant sensations of irregular and/or forceful beating of the heart in the chest. This symptom can be caused by a change in the rate or rhythm, or by an increase in the force of the contraction of the heart muscle. In some patients with palpitations, no heart disease or abnormal heart rhythms can be found. In others, palpitations result from abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are heartbeats that are too slow, too rapid, irregular, or too early.
Related Symptoms & Signs
Other causes of palpitations
- Bradycardia (Very Slow Heartbeat)
- Medications (Both Prescription and Nonprescription)
- Premature Atrial Contractions
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Causes of Palpitations
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
Anemia is the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, therefore, decreased. There are several types of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia (the most common type), sickle cell anemia, vitamin B12 anemia, pernicious anemia, and aplastic anemia. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, malaise, hair loss, palpitations, menstruation, and medications. Treatment for anemia includes treating the underlying cause for the condition. Iron supplements, vitamin B12 injections, and certain medications may also be necessary.
Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve of the heart. The causes of aortic stenosis are wear and tear of the valve in the elderly, congenital, or scarring or scarring of the aortic valve from rheumatic fever. Symptoms include angina, fainting, and shortness of breath. Treatment is dependant upon the severity of the condition.
Asthma is a condition in which hyperreactive airways constrict and result in symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Causes of asthma include genetics, environmental factors, personal history of allergies, and other factors. Asthma is diagnosed by a physician based on a patient's family history and results from lung function tests and other exams. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and long-acting bronchodilators (LABAs) are used in the treatment of asthma. Generally, the prognosis for a patient with asthma is good. Exposure to allergens found on farms may protect against asthma symptoms.
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is an abnormality in the heart rhythm, which involves irregular and often rapid beating of the heart. Symptoms may include heart palpitations, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Atrial fibrillation treatment may include medication or procedures like cardioversion or ablation to normalize the heart rate.
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Symptoms and Signs
Atrial fibrillation or AFib is a type of heart rhythm abnormality. Early warning signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation include chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. Treatment for atrial fibrillation includes medical procedures, surgery, and medication.
Atrial Flutter vs. Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation (AFib) are two types of a heart problem called atrial tachycardia. Both of these conditions involve the heart's electrical activity, but they are not the same disease. Both diseases are serious and need medical treatment. Common symptoms of these diseases are similar and include: Fatigue Blurry vision Lightheadedness Palpitations Feeling like you may faint Serious symptoms of both conditions are similar and include: Fainting Sweating Severe shortness of breath Chest pain Atrial flutter and AFib are heart conditions that require medical diagnosis (ECG) and treatment by a doctor or other medical health-care professional.
Atrial Flutter: ECG, Symptoms, and Treatments
Atrial flutter is a problem with the atria of the heart. In atrial flutter the atria of the heart rapidly and repeatedly beat due to an anomaly in the electrical system of the heart. It is a type of arrhythmia and can be dangerous because complications can develop easily. Signs and symptoms of atrial flutter include near fainting, palpitations, mild shortness of breath, and fatigue. While the exact cause of atrial flutter is not clearly understood, it's most likely related to your health, what medical conditions you certainly have, poor diet, lack of exercise, and drinking too much alcohol. Atrial flutter is diagnosed by physical examination, medical history, and a sawtooth ECG wave pattern.
Chagas disease is an infection caused by the T. cruzi parasite. Symptoms of Chagas disease include rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and the Romaña sign. An ELISA test is used to diagnose Chagas disease. Treatment depends upon the phase of the disease and the patient's age.
Chest pain is a common complaint by a patient in the ER. Causes of chest pain include broken or bruised ribs, pleurisy, pneumothorax, shingles, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, angina, heart attack, costochondritis, pericarditis, aorta or aortic dissection, and reflux esophagitis. Diagnosis and treatment of chest pain depends upon the cause and clinical presentation of the patient's chest pain.
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Heart disease (coronary artery disease) occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Heart disease can lead to heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease include: Smoking High blood pressure High cholesterol Diabetes Family history Obesity Angina, shortness of breath, and sweating are just a few symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Treatment of heart disease involves control of heart disease risk factors through lifestyle changes, medications, and/or stenting or bypass surgery. Heart disease can be prevented by controlling heart disease risk factors.
Hyperthyroidism is an excess of thyroid hormone due to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms can include increased heart rate, weight loss, heart palpitations, frequent bowel movements, depression, fatigue, fine or brittle hair, sleep problems, thinning skin, and irregular vaginal bleeding. Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Many other health problems or taking excess thyroid hormone medication can cause an overactive thyroid gland. Treatment for the condition is with medication, radioactive iodine, thyroid surgery (rarely), or reducing the dose of thyroid hormone. No diet has been shown to treat hyperthyroidism or its symptoms and signs.
Hypoxia is a condition in which the normal concentration of oxygen in the blood is not enough for normal life functions. Symptoms of hypoxia and/or hypoxemia may be acute such as fast heart rate, rapid breathing, and shortness of breath; or severe symptoms include confusion, the inability to communicate, coma, and sometimes death. Treatment of hypoxia and/or hypoxemia is to provide supplemental oxygen to the body as soon as possible.
Is It Normal to Have Irregular Heartbeat After Ablation?
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Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
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Mitral Valve Prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP), also called "click murmur syndrome" and "Barlow's syndrome," is the most common type of heart valve abnormality. Usually, people with mitral valve prolapse have no signs and symptoms; however, if the prolapsed valve is severe, symptoms may appear. When symptoms of severe mitral valve prolapse do appear, they may include, fatigue, palpitations, chest pain, anxiety, migraine headaches, and pulmonary edema. Echocardiography is the most useful test for mitral valve prolapse. Most people with mitral valve prolapse need no treatment. However, if the valve prolapse is severe, treatment medications or surgery may be necessary to repair the heart valve.
Palpitations are uncomfortable sensations of the heart beating hard, rapidly, or irregularly. Some types of palpitations are benign, while others are more serious. Palpitations are diagnosed by taking the patient history and by performing an EKG or heart monitoring along with blood tests. An electrophysiology study may also be performed. Treatment of palpitations may include lifestyle changes, medication, ablation, or implantation of a pacemaker. The prognosis if palpitations depends on the underlying cause.
Panic attacks are sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning. These episodes can occur at any time, even during sleep. A person experiencing a panic attack may believe that he or she is having a heart attack or that death is imminent. The fear and terror that a person experiences during a panic attack are not in proportion to the true situation and may be unrelated to what is happening around them. Most people with panic attacks experience several of the following symptoms: racing heartbeat, faintness, dizziness, numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers, chills, chest pains, difficulty breathing, and a feeling of loss or control. There are several treatments for panic attacks.
Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs)
Premature ventricular contractions (PVC) are premature heartbeats originating from the ventricles of the heart. PVCs are premature because they occur before the regular heartbeat. There are many causes of premature ventricular contractions to include: heart attack, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, mitral valve prolapse, hypokalemia, hypoxia, medications, excess caffeine, drug abuse, and myocarditis.
Smoking (How to Quit Smoking)
Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or "passive smoke" also harm family members, coworkers, and others around smokers. There are a number of techniques available to assist people who want to quit smoking.
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A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include weakness, numbness, double vision or vision loss, confusion, vertigo, difficulty speaking, or understanding speech. A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
Ticks (Tick Bites)
Ticks are known transmitters of disease to humans and animals. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, tularemia, babesiosis, and Southern tick-associated rash illness. Infected ticks spread disease once they've bitten a host, allowing the pathogens in their saliva and mouth get into the host's skin and blood. Tick bites are typically painless, but the site of the bite may later itch, burn, turn red, and feel painful. Individuals allergic to tick bites may develop a rash, swelling, shortness of breath, numbness, or paralysis. Tick bite treatment involves cleaning and applying antibiotic cream.
Examples of Medications for Palpitations
- amiodarone, Cordarone, Nextrone, Pacerone
- Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)
- nifedipine (Procardia, Adalat, Afeditab)
- procainamide, Pronestyl; Procan-SR; Procanbid (These brands no longer are available in the U.S.)
- propranolol, Inderal, Inderal LA, Innopran XL
- quinidine (Discontinued Brands: Cardioquine, Cin-Quin, Duraquin, Quinidex, Quinora, Quinact)
- verapamil (Calan, Verelan, Verelan PM [Discontinued: Isoptin, Isoptin SR, Covera-HS])
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