Heart flutter symptoms are caused by heart arrhythmias. Arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms, can make the heart beat too fast or too slow. Everyone may experience an arrhythmia at some point in life. Many times, people feel irregular heartbeats and describe the sensation as a fluttering in the chest. In most cases, heart arrhythmias or flutters do not cause serious problems; however, a doctor should evaluate recurrent arrhythmias as they can indicate a more serious condition.
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People frequently describe a rapid and strong heart beat felt in the upper chest or throat as a flutter. Health care providers refer to these symptoms as palpitations. Palpitations frequently create feelings of anxiety in people experiencing them. Stress, exertion, and stimulants like caffeine can trigger palpitations.
Heart flutters may cause strong palpitation sensations in the upper chest and throat, which induce coughing. According to authors Donna D. Ignatavicius and M. Linda Workman in their book “Medical-Surgical Nursing-Patient Centered Collaborative Care,” patients with a prolonged heart flutter, or those who have a history of heart failure, can experience cough with an arrhythmia because of a build-up of fluid in the heart and lungs that results from the irregular heart rhythm.
A very fast irregular heart rate or heart flutter causes a person’s blood pressure to decrease. If the arrhythmia goes on long enough, the patient can become dizzy, or may even pass out. Patients who experience dizziness with heart flutter should seek medical care.
Sometimes, a heart flutter causes chest pain. This is particularly true if the patient has a history of coronary artery disease and experiences a low blood pressure as a result of the arrhythmia. The low blood pressure decreases blood flow to the heart muscle, which causes chest pain. The American Heart Association emphasizes that patients with heart flutter who experience chest pain need medical attention.
Shortness of Breath
For multiple reasons, heart flutter may cause feelings of shortness of breath. Patients experiencing a heart flutter may become anxious, which causes feelings of air hunger. A frequent cough induced by the arrhythmia can lead to shortness of breath. An arrhythmia that causes a build-up of fluid in the heart and lungs creates symptoms of shortness of breath. A physician should evaluate a heart flutter with shortness of breath.
The American Heart Association advises that in rare instances, a heart flutter may cause sudden death. Sudden death is the sudden stopping of the heart. A heart flutter may trigger what is called a lethal arrhythmia; a rhythm that does not create a palpable heart beat; therefore, no blood gets pumped to the body. The patient needs cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency care to restore a working heart rhythm and to sustain life.
- “Medical-Surgical Nursing-Patient Centered Collaborative Care”; Donna D. Ignatavicius and M. Linda Workman Ph.D.; 2010
- American Heart Association: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Monitoring of Arrhythmia