Health Topics

Experiencing a ‘Flutter’ in Your Heart?

No Need to Fear Seeing Your Doctor

Any person who experiences a fluttering or abnormal beating of the heart should be evaluated promptly, say Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute specialists. Heart rhythm disturbances occur across a range of ages and result from problems with the electrical impulses traveling through the heart.

Atrial fibrillation most common

Bruce Lindsay, MD, Head of Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing notes that the most common heart rhythm irregularity in the United States is atrial fibrillation, which causes the following symptoms:

  • A pounding sensation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

Left untreated, constant racing of the heart can cause damage, and the heart eventually loses its effectiveness as a pump.

Heart rhythm problems are reversible

Fortunately, when recognized and treated early, irregular heart rhythms can be reversed, and the heart's function can be restored.

Your doctor will probably order an EKG (electrocardiogram), a fast and painless test that graphs your heart's rhythm. If an abnormality is detected, the next step is usually a stress echocardiogram. This simple ultrasound test will reveal the motion of your heart's valves and pumping chambers as you walk a treadmill.

Interrupting problem circuits

Many people worry about seeing a doctor for fear that something bad will be discovered on their tests. Fortunately, not all heart rhythm problems turn out to be serious.

"Even when serious problems are detected, ablation (interruption of the heart's abnormal "electrical circuit" through surgery or a catheter procedure) is highly successful," says Dr. Lindsay. For more severe rhythm disturbances, pacemakers called cardioverter-defibrillators can be installed to re-set the heart's rhythm automatically.

Improving your quality of life

Either way, it's to your advantage to have that heart flutter evaluated. "Treatment, if needed, makes a huge difference in your quality of life over the long term," Dr. Lindsay concludes.

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