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Palpitations are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or too fast.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

About Palpitations

Palpitations are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, pounding, or beating too hard or too fast. You may feel palpitations in your chest, throat, or neck during activity or when you are sitting still or lying down.

Strong emotions, physical activity, some medicines, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or illegal drugs may cause palpitations. Medical conditions such as thyroid disease, low blood sugar, anemia, and low blood pressure also may cause palpitations.

Heart palpitations may be a sign or symptom of arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat, or other heart conditions such as heart attack, heart failure, heart valve disease, or cardiomyopathy.

Although palpitations are very common and usually harmless, they can be frightening when they happen and may cause anxiety. Most go away on their own....Read more about Palpitations
NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Monitoring for Atrial Fibrillation in Discharged Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack Patients: A Clinical and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis and Review of Patient Preferences [Internet]

In-patient cardiac monitoring following a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) captures only a fraction of occult atrial fibrillation (AF) cases, and substantial evidence suggests that the detection rate increases with prolonged monitoring time. To inform decision-makers about the appropriate use of outpatient cardiac monitoring devices in patients who have experienced a stroke or TIA, CADTH conducted a health technology assessment (HTA) on the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of cardiac monitoring devices in outpatient stroke or TIA patients. Patient perspectives and experiences regarding the value and impact of outpatient AF cardiac monitoring devices were also considered.

Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee: An Update Review [Internet]

To assess the evidence for the efficacy of the following interventions for improving clinical outcomes in adults with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee: cell-based therapies; glucosamine, chondroitin, or glucosamine plus chondroitin; strength training, agility, or aerobic exercise (land or water based); balneotherapy, mud bath therapy; electrical stimulation techniques (including transcutaneous electrical stimulation [TENS], neuromuscular electrical stimulation, and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy [PEMF]); whole body vibration; heat, infrared, or ultrasound; orthoses (knee braces, shoe inserts, or specially designed shoes); weight loss diets; and home-based therapy or self-management.

Drug Class Review: Drugs for Fibromyalgia: Final Original Report [Internet]

We compared the effectiveness and harms of tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, noradrenergic and specific serotonergic reuptake inhibitor, norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor, serotonin receptor antagonist, antiepileptic drugs, and skeletal muscle relaxants in adults with fibromyalgia.

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Summaries for consumers

Atrial fibrillation: Overview

A heart rate that is irregular and often too fast is the most common sign of atrial fibrillation. Although the condition isn’t immediately life-threatening, it increases the risk of a stroke and can weaken the heart over time. There are a number of different treatment options.

Pharmacotherapy for weight loss in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Obesity is closely related to type 2 diabetes and weight reduction is an important part of the care delivered to obese persons with diabetes. This review of drugs for weight loss among adults with type 2 diabetes revealed weight loss of between 2.0 and 5.1 kg for fluoxetine, orlistat and sibutramine at follow‐up of up to 57 weeks. The long‐term effects remain uncertain. Adverse events were common in all three drugs: gastrointestinal side effects with orlistat; tremor, somnolence, and sweating with fluoxetine; and palpitations with sibutramine. There were few studies examining other drugs used for weight loss in populations with diabetes.

Does an aminophylline injection in addition to bronchodilators for an asthma attack improve lung function and other outcomes or cause harm?

In an asthma attack, the airways (passages to the lungs) narrow from muscle spasms and swelling (inflammation), which can cause breathing problems, wheezing and coughing. Attacks can be severe or even fatal. The main drugs used to relieve a severe asthma attack are bronchodilators (reliever inhalers to open up the lungs and airways) for the spasms and corticosteroids (preventer medications to decrease the inflammation in the lungs and airways). The drug aminophylline has also been used intravenously (injected into the veins) for many years; however, this review of trials found that aminophylline is not significantly better than other bronchodilator drugs, and has more adverse effects. For every 100 people treated with aminophylline an additional 20 people had vomiting and 15 people arrhythmias or palpitations. This review was first published in 2000 and was updated in 2012 and the addition of two trials in 2012 did not alter the original conclusions.

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Terms to know

A condition caused when the body does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood that carries oxygen.
An abnormally slow heart rate. Thresholds for different age, gender, and patient populations exist.
The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
Rapid beating of the heart, usually defined as greater than 100 beats per minute.
Thyroid Gland
A gland located beneath the larynx (voice box) that makes thyroid hormone and calcitonin. The thyroid helps regulate growth and metabolism. Also called thyroid gland.

More about Palpitations

Photo of an adult

Also called: Heart palpitations

See Also: Cardiac Arrhythmia

Other terms to know: See all 5
Anemia, Bradycardia, Heart

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