Health A to Z
Heart palpitations are heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable.
Your heart may feel like it's pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for just a few seconds or minutes. You may also feel these sensations in your throat or neck.
Palpitations may seem alarming, but in most cases they're harmless and aren't a sign of a serious problem.
Sometimes you may feel an extra or missed beat. These are known as ectopic beats and are also usually nothing to worry about.
Causes of heart palpitations include:
Click on these links for more information about these causes.
Common triggers of heart palpitations include:
In these cases, the palpitations should go away on their own. Avoiding these triggers may help stop them coming back.
Heart palpitations are also often caused by emotions or psychological issues, such as:
Palpitations can occasionally be triggered by some types of:
Speak to your GP if you think medication may be causing your palpitations. But don't stop taking a prescribed treatment without first getting medical advice.
Heart palpitations in women can sometimes be the result of hormonal changes that occur during:
In these cases, the palpitations are usually temporary and not a cause for concern.
Palpitations are sometimes caused by a problem with the heart rhythm, such as:
These conditions are known as arrhythmias.
Some palpitations may be associated with other problems with the heart, such as:
Some of these conditions can be serious and often require treatment.
The following conditions can also sometimes cause heart palpitations:
You don't usually need to see your GP if the palpitations pass quickly and occur only occasionally. They're unlikely to be caused by a serious problem and probably won't need treatment.
But it's a good idea to contact your GP if:
To help determine the cause, your GP may:
If you can't have an ECG at your GP surgery or your doctor wants to arrange heart monitoring over a longer time period, you may be referred for tests at a local hospital.
Call 999 for an ambulance or visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if you have heart palpitations and any of the following symptoms:
These symptoms could indicate a serious or potentially life-threatening heart problem that should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible.