Heart palpitations are a feeling or sensation that your heart has missed a beat or added an extra beat. It may feel like your heart is pounding, flattering or beating fast. You may feel the palpitations in your throat, neck or chest.
Some types of heart palpitations are harmless, but in rare cases they can be a presentation of a more serious heart condition.
Causes of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations can be caused by:
- Strenuous exercise
- Emotions: stress, anxiety, panic, fear
- Lack of sleep
- Low blood sugar
- Electrolyte abnormalities
- Blood loss
- Low levels of oxygen or carbon dioxide in the blood
- Certain medications such as decongestants and asthma inhalers, beta blockers and cough/cold medicines
Sometimes the cause of heart palpitations is unknown.
Although the heart palpitations are harmless, they can sometimes be an indication of an underlying illness especially if you also have:
- Risk factors of a heart disease
- Heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
- A defective heart valve
Heart palpitations can occasionally be a symptom of a serious condition such as an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
Arrhythmia (heart rhythm changes) can cause tachycardia (a very fast heart rate), bradycardia (an unusually slow heart rate), or a normal heart rate which tends to vary from the usual heart rhythm or a combination of the three.
Symptoms of Heart Palpitations
Symptoms of heart palpitations include feeling like your heart is:
- Beating too fast
- Skipping beats
- Fluttering rapidly
Heart palpitations can occur when you are at rest or active. You should see a doctor immediately if your heart palpitations are accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling confused, dizzy or lightheaded
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Passing out
Diagnosis of Heart Palpitations
Your physician will ask you questions about your medical history and listen to your heart and lungs using a stethoscope. He/she will also look for any signs of a medical problem that can be causing the heart palpitations. A thorough physical examination will also be conducted on you to identify the cause.
The following tests may be ordered:
- Blood and urine tests
- Stress test
- Chest x-ray
- Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)
- Echocardiogram (heart ultrasound)
You may be recommended to wear a heart monitor after you leave the doctor’s office so it can record more information about your heart and symptoms.
Treatment of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations rarely require treatment unless your doctor finds out that you have an underlying heart condition. The treatment will then be focused on the underlying medical condition.
If the heart palpitations are due to lifestyle choices, you will be asked to avoid the triggers or stressors.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service from initial consultation through to the final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our team of expert doctors and nurses are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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