What is Ectopic Beat?
If an individual suffers from an irregular or premature heartbeat then it is medically termed as Ectopic Beat. This condition is also named as Ectopic rhythm or Premature Atrial Contraction or Premature Ventricular Contraction. Whenever the heart beats prematurely then more often than not it is followed by a brief pause resulting in a stronger beat than normal which can easily be felt. It may also mimic a heart flutter. Majority of people suffer from Ectopic Beat and it is a harmless condition and does not need any medical treatment for its correction. This condition is normally occasional and does not recur; however, if it constantly recurs then it is a matter of concern and should be investigated as to the cause since it may indicate a heart injury or some imbalance of the electrolytes.
What are the Types Of Ectopic Beats?
There are basically two types of Ectopic Beat one is a premature atrial contraction and the other one is premature ventricular contraction.
Premature Atrial Contraction: This arises when the irregular heartbeat starts from the atria. These types of heartbeats are normally benign and do not pose any threat and are normally found in children.
Premature Ventricular Contraction: This type of Ectopic Beat begins in the ventricles of the heart. This condition needs treatment and the risk for this type of Ectopic Beat increases with age of an individual and someone with a family history of Premature Ventricular Contraction.
What Causes Ectopic Beat?
The most common causes of an Ectopic Beat are:
- Alcohol abuse
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Chronic smoking
- Certain classes of medication
- Chronic intake of stimulant medications
- Increased stress
If this condition is chronic and does not improve with time then it can be due to the following medical conditions:
- Heart ailments
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Heart muscle injuries usually due to hypertension.
What are the Symptoms of Ectopic Beat?
Usually, an individual is not even aware that he or she is suffering or has suffered an Ectopic Beat but generally there will be symptoms in which the individual will experience the following:
- Fluttering of the heart
- Feeling as if the heart is pounding
- Feeling of skipped beats
- Feeling anxious about the heartbeat
- In case of this happening every now and then the individual may even feel lightheaded.
How is Ectopic Beat Diagnosed?
In majority of the cases no definite cause for an Ectopic Beat is identified and since it is normally an occasional incidence hence there is no specific test related to its diagnosis; however, if an individual has Ectopic Beat frequently then it may indicate an underlying problem and the following tests may be ordered to find out the cause of the condition.
For example if Ectopic Beat is accompanied by chest pain or shortness of breath then you need to seek immediate medical attention. The treating physician will first take a detailed history as to the duration of the symptoms and what other symptoms are associated with Ectopic Beat. The physician may also conduct a physical examination looking for any abnormal heart sounds or murmurs or any incidences of skipped beats. The physician may also order the following tests in order to identify the cause of Ectopic Beat.
Electrocardiogram: This test shows the heartbeat in the form of electrical impulses. This test can show whether there is any abnormality in the rhythm of the heart and whether the heart is functioning normally.
Holter Monitor: A Holter monitor is a small portable device which is attached to the patient and the heart rhythms are monitored. This device may be put in for 24 or 72 hours. This is quite an effective way of diagnosing any abnormality in the rate and rhythm of the heart.
Echocardiogram: This test makes use of ultrasound waves to look at the functioning of the heart. This test can accurately identify any abnormality of the functioning of the heart.
How is Ectopic Beat Treated?
For majority of cases of Ectopic Beats there is no treatment required as the symptoms resolve on their own with time; however, if symptoms start to worsen then treatment is required for correction of the problem depending on the cause of the condition. In case if the patient has a prior history of a myocardial infarction or congestive heart failure then the patient may be prescribed beta blockers like atenolol or metoprolol for treatment. In cases of a longstanding underlying cardiac problem then angioplasty may be recommended. Apart from this there are quite a few simple things that a patient can do in cases of Ectopic Beat which are making a note as to what triggers an attack like tobacco, alcohol, or caffeine and staying away from it. Stress may also play an important role in Ectopic Beat and thus it is always better to stay relaxed and exercise regularly to keep excessive stress at bay. If anxiety is a cause for the symptoms of Ectopic Beat then a referral; to a psychiatrist for treatment may be recommended. Ectopic Beat do not cause any complications but may ultimately cause irregular heartbeat.