Heart Palpitations

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

When you have heart palpitations, you may experience a variety of sensations, such as:

  • A fluttering or quivering feeling in your chest or heart
  • A pounding, racing heart
  • Erratic rhythms, such as skipped or extra heartbeat

Palpitations can occur when you’re active, sitting still or lying down. You may notice them not only in your chest, but also in your throat or neck.

Most palpitations are harmless. They can be a signof more serious conditions.  Notify your doctor if they start to become more frequent, noticeable or bothersome, or if they’re accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Light-headedness or fainting
  • Pain, pressure or tightness in your chest, jaw or arms
  • Unusual sweating

What Causes Palpitations?

Heart palpitations causesare many and varied. They may include:

  • Anxiety, fear, stress or panic
  • Caffeine
  • Certain medical conditions, such as an overactive thyroid, low blood sugar, low potassium, fever, anemia, dehydration, loss of blood, shock, or low oxygen or carbon dioxide levels in the blood
  • Certain medications, such as asthma inhalers and decongestants, beta blockers and antiarrhythmics, cough and cold medications, and herbal or nutritional supplements
  • Exercise
  • Illegal street drugs, especially cocaine and amphetamines (speed)
  • Nicotine found in tobacco products
  • Pregnancy

Diagnosing Palpitations

Your doctor will want to determine if your palpitations are harmless or if they’re related to a heart condition or another medical condition. Diagnosis often begins with your doctor asking about your medical history, your family health history and a complete description of your symptoms.

Before your visit, it is helpful to keep a record of your palpitations, including when they begin, how long they last, how often they occur and what you think may have triggered them.

Along with checking your pulse and listening to your heart with a stethoscope, your doctor is likely to perform some tests, including:

Treating and Preventing Palpitations

Like many conditions, treating palpitations depends on their underlying cause and severity. Your doctor will be able to tell you if your palpitations are harmless, or if they require further treatment.

If your palpitations are harmless but bothersome, your doctor can help you devise ways to avoid them. For example:

  • If stress and anxiety trigger your palpitations, it can be helpful to practice relaxation exercises, yoga or meditation to reduce your stress.
  • If caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants are causing your racing heart, try to avoid them. Your doctor can recommend strategies or medications to help you quit smoking.

If a heart condition or other medical concern is causing your palpitations, your doctor will devise a treatment to address that cause.

A Leader in Diagnosing and Treating Irregular Heartbeats

Aurora Health Care is a nationally recognized leader in diagnosing, managing and treating irregular heartbeats. Starting in 1977, Aurora Health Care’s Cardiac Electrophysiology Department in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was one of the first programs in the nation to diagnose and treat patients with heart rhythm disorders.

Our physicians and nurses provide state-of-the art, comprehensive care for patients suffering from all types of heart conditions. We use the most advanced technologies available, some of which we developed.

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.