What Is Premature Ventricular Contraction?
Have you noticed that your heartbeat feels a little off? The feeling could be sporadic, or it could happen regularly. The irregular beat feeling might be short or long.
If this is how you feel, you might be experiencing premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). This common heart arrhythmia might not be a cause for concern, or it could develop deadly consequences. If you think you might be experiencing PVCs, it’s important to talk to a cardiologist and get tests that can distinguish between a harmless condition that needs monitoring and one that’s dangerous and needs treatment.
How Premature Ventricular Contraction Occurs
The human heart has four chambers. The two at the top are called atria, while the two at the bottom are called ventricles. In a normal heartbeat, the chambers contract in a sequence, with the atria contracting first to push blood into the ventricles. Then the ventricles contract, sending blood out of the heart to the lungs and the body.
In premature ventricular contraction, the ventricles contract first before filling by the atria. This leads to an inefficient heartbeat. The next time the heart sequence beats normally, the ventricles are overfull, leading to a sensation that the heartbeat is particularly hard or large.
Premature Ventricular Contraction Symptoms
Premature ventricular contraction doesn’t always present noticeable symptoms. However, your PVCs might feel like:
- More noticeable heartbeat
- Fluttering heart
- Pounding heart
- Skipping or missing heartbeats
- Extra heartbeats
- Pounding sensation in the neck
- Chest pain
The longer your period of PVCs, the more likely you are to notice them. Having noticeable PVCs doesn’t automatically put you at risk for dangerous consequences. However, if you notice PVCs, you should talk to a cardiologist.
What Causes Premature Ventricular Contractions?
Often, there’s no identifiable cause of your premature ventricular contraction. There are many things in your daily life that might trigger episodes of PVCs, such as:
- Illegal drugs
- Prescription medications
However, PVCs can also be linked to:
- High blood pressure
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart attack
- Coronary heart disease
If you experience PVC symptoms, it’s important to talk to a cardiologist to distinguish between more serious and relatively harmless PVCs.
How Are Premature Ventricular Contractions Diagnosed?
Premature ventricular contraction diagnosis begins with a normal exam by a cardiologist. They will listen to your heartbeat and may order tests like an electrocardiogram (EKG). An EKG tracks the movement of electrical signals through your heart, triggering the heartbeats. This will show if the ventricle is beating early.
Because PVCs can be periodic, they can be hard to diagnose. To detect infrequent PVCs, you might have to wear a heart monitor for up to 30 days.
Are Premature Ventricular Contractions Dangerous?
Usually, premature ventricular contractions are not dangerous. However, when combined with other types of heart problems, they can be deadly.
Frequent PVCs can develop into more serious heart arrhythmias and contribute to a weakening of the heart muscle. In people with other heart problems, PVCs can cause dangerous arrhythmias that lead to sudden cardiac death.
Let Us Check Out the Health of Your Heart
If you have or suspect you have an irregular heartbeat, it’s important to talk to a cardiologist. At South Denver Cardiology, we can perform noninvasive tests to determine whether you have premature ventricular contractions or other types of heart arrhythmia. We can also perform other tests to detect the presence of other heart diseases that can become dangerous. Our electrophysiology team can help treat PVC and other heart arrhythmias.
Don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule your appointment at our main office in Littleton or satellite offices in Denver, Englewood, Castle Rock, or Parker.
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As with any health concerns, your specific treatment program should be discussed thoroughly with your primary care physician as well as any specialists who may need to be consulted – like a cardiologist.Sign Up