Saturday, March 19, 2016

Is Palpitation Dangerous?

Have you ever felt that your heart is beating very hard or fast? If yes, then you might have a medical condition known as palpitations. These sensations might sometimes be felt in the throat or neck but the symptoms might often last for just a few seconds or minutes.

While palpitations are abnormal and can be bothersome or frightening, they are not serious or harmful and should go away on their own. Stress, and anxiety or consumption of stimulants like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol can cause palpitations. Palpitations can also occur during pregnancy.

However, palpitations can be a sign of a more serious heart condition that can be potentially dangerous. So people with such symptoms should seek immediate medical help, especially if one also experiences shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, or fainting. Palpitation may be due to a heart rhythm problem or cardiac arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation (AF) or supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

Being due to fast abnormal electrical circuits in the atria, AF is most common in people aged 55 and above. The victims can experience a fast, irregular pulse that can cause a persistent heart flutter. AF, though can be uncomfortable, is not usually life threatening. But it can cause considerable distress to the person. For older people with other conditions like coronary artery disease and heart failure, AF is a key factor of stroke. This group of people may require medication to lower their risk of stroke.

SVT causes episodes of an abnormally fast heart rate, but the heart rate is often steady and not irregular. SVT affect the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria. SVT can occur in healthy people and cause palpitations to occur suddenly and unpredictably. SVT are usually harmless and tend to settle down on their own without the need for treatment. But if one has prolonged episodes of SVT, he or she should seek medical advice.

People with palpitations that affect the lower chambers of the heart, known as ventricles, can be traced to conditions like ventricular extra-systoles or ectopic beats and ventricular tachycardia (VT). Ventricular arrhythmias can be potentially dangerous, especially if the heart structure is abnormal, for instance, having an abnormally thick heart muscle or an enlarged heart. In some cases, ventricular arrhythmias may cause the patient to lose consciousness and experience a blackout.

Tests that can detect the type of cardiac arrhythmia one has include electrocardiogram, and a 24-hour ambulatory heart rhythm monitor or Holter monitor. After the test, the cardiologist should be able to assess if this person has any significant underlying heart problem and whether further tests are required. Some patients may just need reassurance and maybe a change in lifestyle, while others may need specific medication or even surgery.

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