A sensation or feeling in the chest of having a rapid and vigourous heartbeat.
Palpitations are often felt in frightening or tense situations, or following strenuous exercise. When experienced during a period of calm or rest, they are often due to ectopic heartbeats and are felt as a thumping or fluttering in the chest. This condition is often due to caffeine or alcohol consumption, or smoking rather than disease. Palpitations can also be due to cardiac arrhythmias (irregularities of the heartbeat); anaemia (a reduced level of the oxygen-carrying pigment haemoglobin in the blood); or hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), which increases the speed of the heartbeat.
Constant palpitations, or those causing breathlessness, dizziness or chest pain can indicate an underlying disorder, and need immediate medical attention. They can be investigated by thyroid function tests and a 24 hour ECG. Treatment is dependent on the cause.