Heart Palpitations

A Common & Sometimes Life Threatening Heart Condition

Woman SittingA palpitation is a sensation you experience in your chest that is usually caused by your heart beating faster than normal or when extra heart beats occur. You may feel a flutter, "flip flop," pounding or racing of your heart.

Palpitations are extremely common and are usually benign, though some can be life threatening.

Causes of Palpitations

There are many types of irregular or abnormal heart rhythms. While most are not serious, some may require medication. They may be caused by:

  • Thyroid abnormalities
  • Too much caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Anemia
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Too much alcohol
  • Obesity
  • They may run in the family

Notify your doctor if you are having palpitations.

Testing for Palpitations

In order to determine the type of heart irregularity you have you will need to undergo testing. Your doctor will order some blood tests and an EKG. He/she will also want to record what your heart is doing at the time you are having symptoms. This is the only way to actually see the abnormal rhythm. Most doctors accomplish this by having you wear a monitor for 24 hours. Other tests that may be ordered include an ECHO, which is an ultrasound of your heart and a treadmill test.

It can be very challenging diagnosing the cause of your palpitations. Talk to your physician about your symptoms and discuss with him/her concerns you have, such as when you should go to the emergency room.

In general, if you have palpitations associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting or breaking out in a cold sweat, you should call 911.

 

Learn more about Palpitations

Undergoing an Electrophysiology (EP) Study at Swedish>>