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Palpitations – Overview

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"One of the most common symptoms a cardiologist faces from patients is palpitations. Patients will say, ""I'm feeling flutters. I'm feeling thumps. I'm feeling jumps. I'm feeling my heart skip a beat. I'm feeling pauses."" It's very important to understand what palpitations are, what they mean, and when they're important. A palpitation is just a layman's term of an abnormal heart contraction. The heart has a specific timing. If a heartbeat comes early or late, oftentimes it can be sensed by the patient as a very strong heartbeat or a delay in a heartbeat. And it can cause symptoms. If your palpitations don't occur very often and they don't cause you problems, most likely they're benign and they don't need any treatment. However, if your palpitations happen every day, most of the day, and they cause you symptoms of shortness of breath or chest pain or lightheadedness, it's very prudent to get them checked out. When would you worry about a palpitation? If the palpitation occurs unprovoked and causes lightheadedness, fainting, shortness of breath, and your heart rhythm is very fast or very slow, those palpitations are more concerning for an arrhythmia. Meaning a palpitation that occurs and does not stop. Part of the workup involves doing an electrocardiogram to determine where the palpitation is coming from, how long it's lasting, how fast the heart is beating. Then we'd like to determine if the palpitations are occurring because the heart is healthy or because the heart is sick. If you have a healthy heart with no heart condition, most likely the palpitations are occurring from an external factor on the heart, such as abnormal blood pressure, abnormal kidney function, abnormal electrolytes, infection, fever, thyroid disease, et cetera. If you're found to have heart disease, then most likely the palpitations are a sign of a sick heart that needs attention. It's important to discuss this with your cardiologist to determine if the palpitation is serious or not, because there are many treatment options."

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