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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Palpitations
      Category : Health Centers > Heart Diseases


Alternate Names : Irregular Heartbeat, Arrhythmia

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

The term palpitations describes an unusual awareness of the heartbeat.

What is going on in the body?

Ordinarily, a person is not aware of the beating of his or her heart. Under certain circumstances, such as when scared or under stress, a person may become aware of the heartbeat. This awareness of the heartbeat is known as palpitations. Often, the heart may seem to beat faster or harder than usual. In some cases, palpitations may occur due to an irregular heartbeat, also called an arrhythmia.

Palpitations happen to almost everyone at some time in their life. Usually they're nothing to worry about. In some people, the perception of having palpitations is caused by emotion or stress rather than an actual extra beat. However, palpitations may signal a serious condition, especially if they are caused by an arrhythmia.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Common causes of palpitations include:

  • anxiety
  • fever
  • medication such as thyroid hormone medication, decongestants, asthma medications, and certain heart medications
  • substances such as caffeine and appetite suppressants
  • cocaine use
  • hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid gland
  • exercise
  • anemia, which is a low red blood cell count
  • defects in the electrical system of the heart
  • abnormalities of the heart muscle, known as cardiomyopathy
  • abnormalities in the heart valves
  • Risk of palpitations range from no risk to death. The determining factor is the nature of the palpitations, how long the runs are, and the location of the palpitations in the heart.


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    Palpitations: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Reviewer: Eric Berlin, MD
    Date Reviewed: 06/07/01

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