We have been sharing information on different symptoms of underlying diseases that affect the human body. Today, we are going to talk about palpitation. Dr. Vikrant Shah, Internal Medicine Expert at Zen Multispecialty Hospital and Dr. Rahul Gupta, Cardiologist at Cardium Advance Heartcare Clinic have been kind enough to share their inputs on the subject.
Causes: Following are the causes of palpitation:
- Strong emotional responses, such as stress, anxiety or panic attacks!
- Strenuous exercise!
- Stimulants, including caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, and cold and cough medications that contain pseudoephedrine!
- Hormonal changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, too much or too little thyroid hormone!
- Palpitations can occur because of rhythm disturbances of the heart where the heart rate can suddenly become high due to abnormal impulse either in the upper chamber or the lower chamber of the heart. Hyperthyroidism can cause high palpitations.
However, anxiety and panic attacks are quite common cause of palpitations and are commonly mistaken for heart disease.
Complications: If unnatural palpitations are ignored, following complications may occur:
- Fainting: If your heart beats rapidly, your blood pressure can drop, causing you to faint. This might be more likely if you have a heart problem, such as congenital heart disease or certain valve problems.
- Cardiac arrest: Rarely, palpitations can be caused by life-threatening arrhythmias and can cause your heart to stop beating effectively.
- Stroke: If palpitations are due to a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating properly (atrial fibrillation), blood can pool and cause clots to form. If a clot breaks loose, it can block a brain artery, causing a stroke.
- Heart failure: This can result if your heart is pumping ineffectively for a prolonged period due to an arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, controlling the rate of an arrhythmia that’s causing heart failure can improve your heart’s function.
Diagnostic Modalities: ECG during the episodes of palpitations is the most important test. Continuous ECG monitoring with a home-based device can also help when the duration is so short that by the time patient reaches hospital his palpitations recovers. Several blood tests like thyroid test may give clues if the change in heart rate is due to hormones or anything else.
Treatment: Treatment is based on the cause. Anxiety, panic attacks, thyroid problems, etc. can be treated with medicines. Abnormal rhythm from upper chambers can be permanently treated with Radiofrequency Ablation, which is a procedure done through the groin. Abnormal rhythm from the lower chambers may require a shocking device insertion called AICD.
Prevention: Only the one due to panic and anxiety can be avoided with mind relaxing techniques. The others due to heart problems can be prevented from recurring by using appropriate medicines and treatment outlined above.