Palpitations occur when a person can feel abnormalities in the normal beating of the heart. These palpitations can be an isolated extra beat, or they can run together and last for prolonged periods of time. Each part of the heart has the potential to be irritable and cause an extra beat to occur. As well, short circuits in the electrical conduction system of the heart can cause "runs" of abnormal firing.
They can be associated with an isolated skipped beat sensation or, if the palpitations are prolonged, there can be a feeling of fluttering or fullness in the chest. Prolonged episodes can be associated with chest pain, shortness of
breath, sweating, and nausea and vomiting. Some types of heart rhythm problems can cause lightheadedness or even passing out (syncope
Since there are numerous types of palpitations, the treatment is usually specific to the diagnosis. In those people with a yet undiagnosed palpitation, minor lifestyle changes may help minimize symptoms. These include stopping the use of caffeine, alcohol, and over the counter cold medications.
Patients with palpitations should try to keep a journal of when, where, and what circumstances surround their palpitations. They should learn how to take their pulse and document their pulse rate, whether the palpitations occur in isolation or in a pattern, and what associated symptoms exist, including lightheadedness, nausea, sweating,
chest pain, or shortness of breath.
Chest pain (or any other signs of heart attack including jaw pain, indigestion, or extreme fatigue), shortness of breath, or passing out should prompt the patient or a family member to call EMERGENCY and seek medical attention immediately