Understanding Ventricular Ectopics: Should You be Scared of Fluttering Heartbeats?

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Unlike normal heartbeats, which are produced by the atria, ventricular ectopic beats, or premature ventricular contractions (PVC) are observed in the ventricles.

This may or may not cause symptoms, depending on the intensity of the situation. Now, the question is, are they something that you should be worried about? Well, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no, as it requires a deeper understanding of the medical phenomenon, causes, complications and various other associated factors.

Is It Common?

A lot of people all over the world exhibit occasional ventricular ectopics and it is perfectly normal, except in cases where the patient experiences symptoms and does so frequently at that. Such instances can be followed by other consequent effects as well. Under normal circumstances though, PVCs are considered to be a harmless occurrence that doesn’t require any treatment whatsoever.

What are the Symptoms?

Although ventricular ectopics should not cause any symptoms under normal circumstances, they can cause discomfort if the frequency of the ventricular beats is too high and it could be an indicator for bigger problems. Some of the common symptoms of PVCs are as follows:

  • Pounding heart, without sufficient physical exertion to justify it
  • A fluttering sensation in the heart
  • Feeling of dropped/missed heartbeats
  • General and constant awareness of the beating heart

It is important to remember that symptoms of ventricular ectopy may or may not continue for a long time at a stretch, as it has been found to cease and restart at random intervals and without relatable reasons for either.

What Do Ectopic Beats Indicate?

Short of a full medical diagnosis, it would be impossible to state the actual reason responsible for symptomatic and constant ectopic beats in a patient accurately. However, unless the premature ventricular beats continue for a long stretch of time without any determinable external factors that can be held responsible, it could be indicative of the following:

  • The patient has had too many caffeinated drinks such as energy drinks, soft drinks and coffee
  • He/she is on prescription/illegal drugs that are known to cause similar symptoms
  • OTC antihistamines and/or decongestant medication might be the cause
  • Alcohol and tobacco habits are affecting the cardiovascular health of the patient

These are the common indications in otherwise healthy patients without a prominent history of heart conditions, but PVCs may indicate more serious cardiovascular conditions as well. Ectopic beats can also be brought on by tissue damage in the heart (structural heart disease), which is often caused by serious heart conditions such as congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, hypertension and even a pending or occurring cardiac arrest. Aside from cardiovascular conditions, premature ventricular beats might also be a result of anxiety, anaemic disorders and respiratory infections.

Should You See a Doctor?

If anyone is experiencing any of the symptoms that were just discussed, it is advised for them to contact a professional such as the London Heart Clinic which is led by leading cardiologist Dr Syed Ahsan and book an appointment with them as soon as possible. The need to see a doctor becomes even direr if the patient in question has a history of cardiovascular complaints. Even if the patient has had no other accompanying symptoms to indicate seriousness or has had a history of heart conditions, it is still better to get it checked by a professional due to the following reasons:

  1. Undetected/untreated respiratory infections can cause permanent damage to the heart and may even be lethal
  2. The doctor could help you detect other types of underlying conditions such as General Anxiety Disorder or hypertension
  3. It is possible that Undetected heart conditions have damaged the heart tissues, giving rise to structural heart disease
  4. Frequent PVCs, in combination with heart disease, can cause lethal heart attacks
  5. It will provide you with some much-needed mental peace and closure, even if it is nothing to worry about

Can PVC Lead to Health Problems?

As explained earlier, ectopic beats or PVCs are not generally thought of as a cause for concern, unless it originates from a serious heart condition or any other health condition. However, chronic, irregular beats can by themselves, lead to arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy, both of which contribute further towards deteriorating heart health.

What are My Possible Treatment Options?

Depending on the diagnosis, treatment may or may not be necessary, but in most situations, it is likely that the doctor will advise the patient to stay off caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, alongside suggesting patient-appropriate physical exercises. The doctor will also suggest a better sleeping routine if the current one seems unsatisfactory. On the rare occasions where there is an actual cause for concern, further action will be taken in accordance with the underlying condition. For example, a chest infection could be treated with antibiotics, while underlying heart conditions might only require appropriate medication. To know more about the possible diagnostic and treatment options such as catheter ablation, consult with your cardiologist.

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