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When Are Palpitations Serious?

Last modified: 
23/04/2012 - 13:20

Palpitations can be very frightening. But most palpitations do not indicate underlying heart disease. If you are having palpitations, there is a good chance that nothing is seriously wrong. See What are palpitations.

So when are palpitations serious?

Palpitations could be a reason for concern if they are caused by an underlying heart disorder (such as heart valve disease or coronary artery disease) or another serious condition. In this case, they may occur more frequently or may continue for a prolonged period of time. They can happen unexpectedly or might occur after only a modest amount of physical activity.

Your palpitations might be serious if they are accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • Sweating
  • Faintness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms can be signs of a serious disturbance in the heart's rhythm and, perhaps, underlying heart disease. However, it is not easy to tell the difference between palpitations that occur in healthy individuals and those that are linked to heart disease. Your doctor can make that diagnosis.

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.