Irregular Heartbeat (Palpitations)

Palpitations, the sensation that your heart is beating irregularly or too fast, may be due to an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). While some arrhythmias are benign, others are potentially dangerous and require prompt medical attention.

Irregular Heartbeat (Palpitations)
An irregular or rapid heartbeat may indicate an arrhythmia.


The term palpitations refers to the sensation of your heart beating abnormally in your chest. You may feel that your heart is fluttering, pounding, beating irregularly, beating too quickly, or “skipping” beats. This sensation may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, chest pain, or difficulty breathing.

Causes & Risk Factors

Palpitations can be triggered by stress, caffeine, exercise, and certain medications, but sometimes the cause is an arrhythmia (an abnormal heart rhythm). Different types of arrhythmia are associated with different causes and risk factors. Some arrhythmias, such as those that merely signal a temporary electrolyte imbalance, are benign.

Other, more serious arrhythmias can result from structural heart disease, coronary artery disease, or a genetic predisposition. In addition, some underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and thyroid disease, can increase your risk of developing certain arrhythmias.

Treatment & Prevention

Treatment options vary depending on the cause of the palpitations or the specific type of arrhythmia involved. An irregular heartbeat can often be managed with simple lifestyle changes or medication. In rare cases, a procedure such as electric cardioversion (ECV) or ablation is necessary to reestablish a normal heart rhythm. In all cases, it’s important to detect and address any underlying arrhythmias to avoid the risk of other serious conditions.