What Are Palpitations, And Should I Get Them Treated If They Go Away On Their Own?

Dr. William O'Neill answers the question: 'What Are Palpitations?'

— -- Question: What are palpitations, and should I get them treated if they go away on their own?

Answer :Palpitations are very common; everybody has them. And again what happens is the heart is normally rhythmically contracting in the chest. And what patients will actually sense, there's something an extra systole, an extra heart beat that occurs. It causes the heart to pause for a second, and then the heart forcibly contracts. So that next forcible contraction after the skipped heart beat is what you really sense is kind of a gallop or thump in the chest. Those are almost always innocuous -- they really don't cause any major palpitations if they produce other symptoms such as severe shortness of breath, or a sensation of fainting. If these palpitations are associated with episodes of fainting, then that could be a very severe problem and they need a thorough medical evaluation.

But if palpitations occur and they go away on their own, and you haven't had underlying heart disease, they really are no risk and almost are like a hiccup. I think it's something to talk to your doctor about, to tell them at a routine medical evaluation. But by in large, they are usually self- limited and are no major risk.