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Symptoms and Signs of Heart Palpitations Causes, During Pregnancy, Symptoms, and Treatment

Doctor's Notes on Heart Palpitations Causes, During Pregnancy, Symptoms, and Treatment

Palpitations are feelings that occur when a person senses an abnormality in the beating and rhythm of their heart. Palpitations are symptoms of possible abnormal heart rhythms. Signs and symptoms of palpitations may include a feeling of a “skipped beat” or a feeling of fluttering and/or fullness in the chest and/or fullness in the throat with shortness of breath. Palpitations may vary in length from seconds to days (often intermittent); long episodes can cause chest pains, shortness of breath, sweating and nausea and vomiting (resembling a heart attack). Some palpitations are warning signs of serious hear rhythm problems; they include lightheadedness, fainting, and sudden death (ventricular fibrillation). The types of palpitations are premature atrial and ventricular contractions (extra beats), supraventricular tachycardia (very fast heartbeats like 150 beats per min.), atrial fibrillation and flutter (fast irregular and/or sometimes regular atrial beats, all too fast for the ventricles to respond) and ventricular tachycardia and/or fibrillation (fast heartbeats controlled by ventricular signals that may or may not allow ventricular contractions [ventricular tachycardia] or fast and irregular ventricular signals that do not permit ventricular contractions [ventricular fibrillation, that often causes sudden death].

Causes of all palpitations are irregular electric signals conducted from the atria or ventricles. These signals are influenced by electrolyte levels, anemia, hyperthyroidism, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, drugs (albuterol, pseudoephedrine, cocaine, for example), pregnancy, hormonal changes, structural heart abnormalities and stress.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/21/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.