Ectopic rhythm is an irregular heartbeat rhythm caused by impulses from the heart’s natural pacemaker (the sinoatrial node or SA node). It is a type of cardiac arrhythmia. The human heart is made up of four chambers. Blood enters the heart through the two atria and is pumped out of the heart through the two ventricles. Ectopic rhythms can either be called premature ventricular contractions or premature atrial contractions, depending on what part of the heart is moving irregularly.
Your doctor might notice you have an ectopic rhythm before you do because there are not always clear signs. Many individuals with ectopic rhythms describe feeling like their heart flutters or skips a beat. This feeling is a normal reaction to a sudden rush of emotion; however, if you have this fluttering feeling frequently, it may mean the ectopic rhythm is being caused by an underlying condition.
The exact cause for ectopic rhythms is not yet known. However, risk factors include drinking large amounts of alcohol or caffeine, smoking, taking certain types of illegal or prescription drugs, high stress, hard exercise. Experiencing irregular heartbeats also becomes more likely as you age. It is possible that your irregular heart rhythm is a symptom of a more serious problem, which may include heart disease, a chemical imbalance, an infection of the heart, or high blood pressure.
Your doctor will probably run scans to see your heart and will monitor your heart rate for a day or two to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, treatment will not be necessary. If the rhythms are caused by another condition, treatment will be based on the underlying condition. If your ectopic rhythm is becoming more common, you should make an appointment with your doctor. If you have any serious pain or other symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately. Support groups are a good resource for information and can help connect you with others.