An arrhythmia can have no signs or symptoms. In fact, your doctor may first find your arrhythmia during a routine physical exam when he or she listens to your heartbeat or performs an EKG (electrocardiogram).

The most common signs or symptoms of arrhythmia include:

  • palpitations or a feeling that your heart is skipping a beat or fluttering
  • a heart beat that is too fast or “racing”
  • a heart beat that is too slow
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • pauses between heartbeats

More serious symptoms, which may signal an atrial fibrillation or other potentially deadly arrhythmia include:

When to Call Your Doctor

The signs and symptoms of arrhythmia may be hard to detect and are often ignored. If you feel that your heartbeats are sometimes not rhythmic, your heart races without reason (meaning you are not engaging in any type of physical activity which could increase your heart rate), or you’re unable to easily bring your heart rate down after exercise, you may want to see your doctor.

When to Seek Emergency Care

A handful of arrhythmias are medical emergencies. They must be treated as soon as possible to ensure they don’t damage your heart or brain or worse, cause death.

In addition to a racing, erratic, or too-slow heartbeat, if you begin experiencing symptoms such as fainting, shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, or chest pain, it’s important to seek medical care immediately.

Arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation (a fast, chaotic heartbeat) can be deadly if not treated with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation as soon as possible. Also, these symptoms may be caused by other problems that need to be urgently investigated.