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A to Z: Palpitations

May also be called: Irregular Heartbeat

Palpitations (pal-pih-TAY-shuns), or heart palpitations, are rapid or irregular heartbeats that make you feel like your heart is racing or fluttering.

More to Know

Lots of things can cause the heart to beat quickly, including exercise, stress, fever, caffeine, nicotine, illegal drugs, thyroid disorders, and certain medications. This can trigger palpitations, which are fluttering heartbeats — the feeling that the heart has skipped a beat or is beating irregularly. In most cases, these types of palpitations are harmless.

Sometimes, palpitations are due to an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and may be a sign of a serious medical condition. Arrhythmias can be caused by heart disease, genetic factors, chemical imbalances in the blood, infections, medications, and injuries to the heart.

Frequent palpitations or palpitations along with fainting, chest pain, sweating, or shortness of breath might indicate an arrhythmia that should be diagnosed by a doctor.

Keep in Mind

Most palpitations won't require any treatment. If an arrhythmia is causing the palpitations, treating its cause usually will stop the palpitations. Palpitations occurring repeatedly or with other associated symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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