Dr. Iroko Anita
(Medical Officer)

Palpitations is one of the most common complaints that prompt people to go to the hospital for check up on their heart

What are palpitations?

It is the feeling of having a fast heart beat, rapid fluttering in the chest, skipping beats, pounding of the heart or awareness of your own heartbeat.

Common Causes:

  1. Stimulant used such as caffeine, cannabis, nicotine, cocaine, heroin e.t.c
  2. Alcohol withdrawal 
  3. Anxiety/Panic attack
  4. Arrhythmias
  5. Hyperactive thyroid
  6. Hypoglycaemia
  7. Hormonal changes e.g in pregnancy, menopause e.t.c
  8. Intense/strenuous physical activities
  9. Electrolyte imbalance 
  10. High grade fever
  11. Anaemia  

The causes of palpitations are more than stated above however immediate care is necessary to prevent complications such as loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest or stroke.

Palpitations can be a sign of an imminent myocardial infarction (heart attack).

How The Cause Of Palpitations Are Ruled out:

Palpitations can also be idiopathic meaning the exact cause may not be detected however all other possible causes must be ruled out to make that diagnosis

Investigations such as Chest x-ray, Electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitoring (a type of ECG that monitor your heartbeat throughout the day), Echocardiography (ECHO), Lipid profiles, Thyroid function test, Electrolyte/ Urea/creatinine and others can detect the cause of the palpitations and aid in management. 

Treatment options:

Ranges from lifestyle modifications such as limiting stimulants, learning anxiety control techniques to calm yourself when having a panic attack to taking certain medications for any possible underlying cause such as beta-blockers.


  1. When palpitations are frequent 
  2. When the palpitations are associated with dizziness, shortness of breath, feeling faint/fainting, headache, increase sweating, chest pain, restlessness, loss of appetite or feeling easily tired.
  3. Family history of heart diseases 
  4. Family history of diabetes 
  5. Previous heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  6. On hormonal medications 
  7. Change in weight. 


Palpitations are common in young adults to the elderly. It can be sign of a serious cardiac emergency and may require hospital care so make sure you are doing your regular yearly check-ups and attend any hospital appointments you may have. 

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