Heart palpitations refer to the feeling that the heart is skipping a beat, fluttering or beating too quickly.
What causes heart palpitations?
Heart palpitations are commonly caused by exercise, some medicines, nicotine, caffeine or anxiety. They can also be caused by fever, hormone changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. They are relatively harmless.
However, palpitations may also be caused by a more serious condition that requires medical care. For instance, you may experience them if you have arrhythmia, heart disease, heart valve disease, thyroid disease or abnormal levels of oxygen in your blood.
What are the symptoms of heart palpitations?
Heart palpitations feel like your heart is fluttering, skipping a beat, or beating too hard, too quickly, or too slowly. You may feel these sensations in your chest, throat or neck.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience heart palpitations with other symptoms that signal a serious cardiac condition. Look for symptoms like:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Difficulty breathing
- Unusual sweating
- Pain or pressure in your chest, jaw or arms
How are heart palpitations diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing heart palpitations, it’s important to determine whether they’re harmless or caused by a more serious heart problem. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may recommend several tests to look for underlying causes:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Holter or event monitor
- Stress test
How are heart palpitations treated?
Most heart palpitations will go away on their own. In some cases, you may need treatment if an underlying heart condition is causing them. The treatment will be focused on correcting the condition. Your doctor may also recommend avoiding things that trigger heart palpitations, including:
- Anxiety and stress
- Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine
- Over-the-counter medications that act as stimulants, such as cold medicine