- irregular heartbeat
What is going on in the body?
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
- medication such as thyroid hormone medication, decongestants, asthma medications, and certain heart medications
- substances such as
caffeineand appetite suppressants
- cocaine use
hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid gland
anemia, which is a low red blood cell count
- defects in the electrical system of the heart, some occurring for genetic reasons
- abnormalities of the heart muscle, known as
- abnormalities in the heart valves
What can be done to prevent the condition?
How is the condition diagnosed?
- Are the palpitations continuous or do they come and go?
- What was the person doing when they noticed the palpitations?
- Was the heart rate fast or slow?
- Were there any other symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, excessive sweating, or dizziness?
- Does the person have any medical problems?
- What medications or drugs is the person taking now?
- Is there an increase in stress in the person's life?
- Does the person drink a lot of coffee, tea, or soft drinks with caffeine or eat chocolate?
- ECG, an electrical recording of the heart rhythm, to detect current palpitations
- chest x-ray to evaluate the size and shape of the heart
- echocardiogram for an excellent picture of any underlying disease of the heart that might be present. An echocardiogram is especially useful in detecting cardiomyopathy, valvular disease, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure.
- thyroid function tests to rule out underlying thyroid problems
- Holter monitor, a portable device worn by a person to monitor the ECG for at least 24 hours. The Holter monitor is useful because many times the palpitations have stopped by the time the person seeks medical care.
- Event recorders, a recording device activated by the person at the time of the palpitations to record the event
- Electrophysiologic study (EPS), for serious arrhythmias. Done in a special laboratory, this test maps the electrical activity of the heart
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
What are the risks to others?
What are the treatments for the condition?
- If the cause of the palpitations is found to be anxiety or thyroid problems, medication to treat the condition (not the heart) may be given.
- Palpitations from certain heart conditions may be treated with heart medications such as calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers and other anti-arrhythmic medications.
- A person with atrial fibrillation may be given anticoagulation medications, or blood thinners.
- Sometimes an electric charge may be delivered into the heart by external paddles, a procedure known as elective cardioversion. Alternatively, a radiofrequency pulse can be delivered through a catheter placed into the heart.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
What happens after treatment for the condition?
How is the condition monitored?
The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home edition, 1997
Professional Guide to Diseases, Sixth Edition. Springhouse: Springhouse Corporation, 1998.
Tierney, Lawrence, editor, "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 39th edition", 2000
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 1998, Fauci et al.