Avatar universal

How do I know when skipped heart beats are dangerous?

Over a week ago for absolutely no identifiable reason my heart started skipping way more beats than usual.  I can go hours with none and then have several hours where I'll have 2 or 3 a minute.  It's setting me over the edge.  I don't know if it's dangerous or not.  I went to the ER the other day and they basically didn't care at all and just had me take Ativan and sent me home.  Today I panicked and called the paramedics who came and did a 12 lead and they said normal sinus with one ectopic and so I didn't go back to the ER.  I had a normal echo 3 years ago.  I already don't eat caffeine or sugar.

Please reassure or sympathize with me.  I'm going insane and have no idea what's causing this out of the blue.  Why would they suddenly increase for no reason whatsoever?
483 Responses
61536 tn?1340698163
Just because they didn't find anything concerning doesn't mean they didn't care about you in the ED.  What you're experiencing is a lot more common than you may think and they see a lot of it.  They know when to worry and when not to.  The fact that your ectopics have been visualized and deemed benign should be extremely reassuring.  If it isn't, then you have a different issue, which is anxiety.

I understand where you are coming from, as I spent years worrying myself (literally) sick over benign ectopic heartbeats.  Sometimes I can go months with none, other times I am having several a minute including other atrial arrhythmias like SVT.  Ectopic beats are not deadly in a structurally normal heart.  Even a lot of them.  In fact, unless you're having thousands a day, most doctors won't even blink.  You can be half insane with worry over something that is probably only hurting you in terms of your blood pressure (from the undue, unnecessary stress).

While Ativan is a short-term fix, it is extremely addictive and the withdrawals are a nightmare even at small doses (they gave me Ativan in the ED and only 1/2 a mg once a day brought a torturous withdrawal because the anxiety symptoms came back full force for about three weeks until my system adapted to normal again).  Do see your doctor as soon as possible to discuss a better anxiety remedy for the long term.
61536 tn?1340698163
To answer the specific question, "How do I know when skipped heart beats are dangerous?"

You don't.  Only a doctor can determine that with equipment like an EKG.  The big clue that something is wrong is if you begin passing out, which from what you say is highly unlikely since your heart tests are normal.  If you're just having ectopic beats, this probably isn't even worth you thinking about it.
170935 tn?1225371076
I am sure you're just worrying for no reason at all. You sound just like me, whenever i get an increase amount of pvcs i panic and become convinced that its a sign that something dangerous is happening with my heart!! i have also called the paramedics because of pvcs. sometimes they just increase for no apparent reason at all. I worry alot when i get an increase of pvcs because i have svt too and sometimes the pvcs trigger a svt attack. Once i was having about 3-4 a min and i called my cardiologist he told me not to worry and that in a heart which is structurally normal they are NOT dangerous. I was still not convinced and wanted him to check me out properly so i called him the next day and i did something naughty to try and convince him to see me. i lied and told him i was having 10 pvcs a min!! he still told me the same thing that i should not worry, there is nothing wrong with my heart! a few days later when i wasn't having as many i realised that he was right. i know its difficult not to worry when its happening to you, i'm the biggest worrier ever, but if your heart echo and other tests say you're fine then YOU'RE FINE! are you on any meds for the pvcs? i am not and i think that is part of the problem i am looking to start a beta blocker soon and hopefully that will help.

Avatar universal
Thanks guys.  I find it SO, SO hard to convince myself that I'm not in danger.  I feel the urge to repeatedly see doctors for reassurance because I am so scared.

I spoke with my DO this morning who said that skipped beats, even frequent ones, are not associated with anything dangerous.  In the ER they gave me a printout about palpitations that said not to worry unless they're coming 6 or more a minute.  But my head has SUCH a hard time accepting that I'm ok.  It can send me into a panic that I can sustain for days at a time with practically no break.  I just don't understand what has caused this random flair-up.

I am just so ultra sensitive to anything my heart does.  I am constantly aware of what it's doing.
Avatar universal
I took some time just now to read through some of the other posts about PVCs.  I see that I'm not alone at all and that many other people are driven to panic by these things.  It's reassuring to know that other people know how I feel and have continued to survive through this.

I liked what anacyde said in the thread above this one about taking hold of the reigns.  I feel that that's what I need to do before this totally ruins my life.
170935 tn?1225371076
i have no idea what happened in the above post! i was trying to post a message and it seems to have posted iAmEllen's msg again??weird!!
Anyway what i was trying to say was sometimes they tell us not to worry until you start getting more than 6 beats a min, well i asked my cardiologist about this and he says you still don't really need to worry if you have a structurally normal heart. i am sure i have had more than 6 beats a min on a few occassions.
Avatar universal
i dont know where the myth of 6 or more palps in a row or in a minute are life threatening, but its been addressed in this forum more than once and its simply untrue. Unless you have a structural heart problem, pvcs are of no concern, and they are not indicative of a larger problem unless you are having tens of thousands of pvc's per day, and even then, it doesnt nessecarily indicate a problem... Also, frequently people confuse pvc's with the natural way your heart speeds up and slows down while taking a breath.. Its pretty much impossible to know if you're having pvc's, and how many, unless you're hooked up to a monitor.
Avatar universal
These are driving me insane.  I cannot identify any reason for their sudden increase in the last two weeks.
170935 tn?1225371076
when i have an increase in pvcs it is usually because i have indigestion. do you have indigestion perhaps? sometimes even slight acid reflux or bloating can trigger them too.
Avatar universal
I don't know.  I'm not even sure exactly what indigestion is.  I don't feel like I'm having any heartburn or gastrointestinal problems.  What do you take to help when indigestion is causing you trouble?

I just don't understand why I would go from having one every few days to 50-100 a day for absolutely no identifiable reason.  I feel like I'm going to have to check myself into a nuthouse if I don't feel better soon.
170935 tn?1225371076
i never knew i had acid reflux because i didn't really have heart burn etc. i knew there was something because after a meal i would get palpitations but not everytime, i also had occasional chest discomfort which indicates acid reflex but not all the time. it's just a case of trial and error. try some indigestion meds, give them about a week, change your diet: cut out foods that you feel don't agree with you. i cut out carbohydrates, carbonated drinks, fruits such as oranges that are acidic and also vegetables that can cause gas such as broccoli etc. it won't harm you just give it a try. i definitely saw an improvement and i've only been trying it for a week now! Try not to worry i'm assuming you've had all heart tests done and they have come back normal, you need to convince yourself that they are nothing but annoying. The past 2 days have been full of PVCs for me because i have had a stomach bug which has left me dehydrated and with severe indigestion. yesterday i couldnt take a step without feeling rows of them.i called my cardiologist (who is one of the best in the uk) and he told me not to worry, he didn't sound concerned at all.
Avatar universal
6 or more skipped heartbeats per minute life threatening?? The doctor who told you that in the ER needs to go back to school.  I'd have died a long time ago. I have more than 6 skipped beats per minute at times for the last 45 yrs, and I am healthy as a horse including my heart.  When I start having PVC's especially in public or driving my car I get so high anxiety over these damn things that my heart is constantly skipping like every other beat.  I've seen doctors and a Cardiologist about this and all told me "don't worry, anxiety can play tricks on your mind" your mind can bring on frequent PVC's when you worry about the first one coming on". If you get checked out and the Cardiologist gives you a clean bill of health PVC's no matter how many per minute will not kill you.  Of course if somebody already has heart problems maybe they are more dangerous I don't know.  Keep in mind a persistent headache can be a sign of a brain tumor or just plain stress.  A persistent stomach ache can be a sign of cancer or other serious things or just plain stress.  Same goes for the heart.  That is why it needs to get checked out.  Once the doctor/cardiologist assures you that there is nothing wrong with your heart you have to trust him or it will drive you crazy.  I trust him but I still panic when these PVC's start coming especially when out.  I just don't like anything coming from my heart being out of whack even if the Cardiologist says "don't worry, let them take their course".
170935 tn?1225371076
Thanks Barbarella. I also would like to know who said that 6 or more pvcs in a min can lead to something life threatening. Last night i couldn't sleep because i was definitely getting more than 6 pvcs in a min and i was convinced that something bad was going to happen. In fact i got at least 6 in a row at times and everytime i kept remembering that more than 6 is dangerous, in end i just cried myself to sleep.
Does anyone else also get loads of pvcs just as you are nodding off to sleep?
Avatar universal
I think somebody mentioned at the beginning of this thread that an ER doc told him/her that PVC's are not life threatening unless they are 6 or more per minute.  Like I said before I would've died a long time ago.  You've no idea what I've been through with PVC's and still going through at times.  Xanax made them worst, beta blockers did NOT help.  A Cardiologist finally told me "worrying about them brings them on more severe".  I had episodes for days where I had skipped beats like every second or third beat, do your math and see how many beats I had per minute.  I finally helped myself.  I remembered what the doc's and Cardiologist told me "THEY WILL NOT KILL YOU".  "Worrying about them will make them worst.  Your mind is very powerful, the more you worry, the more severe and the longer they will stay."  

Knowing all that I lost the fear of dying from them but I am still uncomfortable and get anxiety over them when they happen when I'm not at home or driving my car or on an airplane, that is the total pits.  The "what if" still kicks in.

I've beenn living with this for 45 yrs and am still alive and kicking.  THEY WILL NOT KILL YOU.  And one more thing don't let anybody tell you that they are dangerous during exercise/walking/jogging.  If you have otherwise a healthy heart the Cardiologist told me "PVC's during exercise will NOT kill you".  Lots of times I have them when I walk real fast for exercise, and lots of times I don't have them.  I used to turn around an hurry back to my car.  NO MORE!  I will not let these PVC's ruining my life.

Good luck to you!
170935 tn?1225371076
thanks! I really appreaciate your honesty that even after so many years of having them you still feel uncomfortable with them and get anxiety because of them. I know you're right i need to stop worrying about them but sometimes i get rows of them and i get worried what if they don't stop?! I guess i need to try harder!
Avatar universal
It took me many yrs/decades before I lost most of the fear of it, but I still get anxiety.

Just this Xmas.  We had a bunch of people over like a family re-union.  I was waiting for an important phone call. All the cooking and entertaining plus worrying about that phone call caused my heart again to skip almost every beat.  It was horrible.  Knowing I just can't tell these people to leave.  I left the room, went outside hoping they would stop but the more I worried the stronger they came.  And of course this was after a heavy meal on top of it.  I have a bigger tendency to get skipped beats after a heavy meal added with suspense and stress and here they come.

I found out in my case that a lack of sleep will bring them on, fatigue, caffeine doesn't bother me or bring them on, sometimes a heavy meal and gas, and suspense.  Waiting for an outcome will bring them on.
Avatar universal
Hi Barbella (love the name).......how many skips do you get a day??
Avatar universal
When I had/have them real bad its like every other beat or every third beat. I had these PVC's from hell.  Since I was assured that they can't kill me I don't get them quite as severe anymore, but if I worry about them I can really work myself up and the more PVC's I will get and the longer they last.

In my case lots of it is nerves.  But you can also get them if your potassium is low.  

Change of life can bring them on also. Fatigue, lack of sleep and STRESS!

When I still worried more about them i.e. when I thought I could drop dead from these PVC's I got them after every meal, no matter how light the meal I immediately got these PVC's. I was almost afraid to eat.  This does not happen that often anymore.

Yet I can drink a cup of coffee (not the strong Starbucks kind)and the PVC's get less I guess because I like coffee and it calms me down, but of course not more than two cups a day.

Good luck to you.  I know the hell these PVC's can cause a person.
Avatar universal
what about palpitations due to low potassium? I am experiencing a change in the pattern of my skipped beats (much more frequent lately...all day everyday for several days). I was told it is fine UNLESS I have very low potassium in which case it is extremely dangerous. I was advised to get a blood test immediately.

Anybody hear this before?
Avatar universal
I have always had palpitations but usually one "skipped beat" every other week or something.  But last night I woke up and was having at least 3-4 a minute...finally decided to go to the ER.  While I was there, the machine at one point registered 10/minute and then it went down but this lasted for about 3 hours.  Once I got home, they went away.  I just don't understand what triggered that episode...scared me to death!
I can handle a palpitation here and there but that was too much and much like some of you...the ER doc just said, "they are benign"...nothing to worry about....but she suggested I get a holter monitor for a few days....I just worry that this will happen again tonight when I go to sleep or worse....that they will trigger ventricular fibrillation--which will kill me.
Avatar universal
Hello all,
I have been having palps for the last 3 months (originally did start from panic attack) but now i have been having freq. ectopic beats and they are really scaring me!  I have been to A&E twice where they did ECG (showed up with ectopics) and took my blood but bloods came back fine so they wasn't worried.  I am currently waiting for a 24 hour monitor and echo scan but in the meantime im feeling very anxious that these ectopics just come out of no where even when im feeling relaxed.

What do you think?
Avatar universal
Right there with you!  I have them when I am just sitting doing nothing.  I have had a stress test, and a nuclear stress test, and EKG and blood work.  They insist that they are benign and nothing to worry about.  But I know how you feel, it is scary.  People tell me not to look on these message boards but it is the only thing that makes me feel better.  I just quit caffeine cold turkey so we'll see if that makes any difference.  good luck to you!
Avatar universal
I have been having ectopic heartbeats for 1 year continuously. I have been to the doctor who has told me they are nothing to worry about. i can't really describe the feeling I have gone through since I started having them, but this website is a real source of comfort as before I thought it was just me. I just can't seem to get my head round not thinking about them not when they keep coming. Some days they are hardly noticable others they are apalling. I have no idea how many are considered dangerous and my main worry is that they will turn into something worse.I dont really understand the difference between PVC's and PAC's can anyone explain??
Alison xx
Avatar universal
Ive suffered from ectopic beats for about 4 years now, mine started about 4 weeks after i started taking thyroxine. My missed beats make me feel dreaful, I go all hot and its like something like a shock goes through my body and i just think this is it, every day i have runs of ectopics and i suppose like everyone else im scared. Im now so aware of my heart that I can feel every beat I just feel they have ruined my life, Im totally convinced that the thyroxine caused these. Ive had every heart test going and everything comes back normal, I think I can cope with everything else, just not the missed beats. I just wondered what other people experience when they have missed beats, what symptoms do you get, if any.


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