Premature Ventricular Contractions or PVC are premature heartbeats occurring before the regular heartbeat which originates from the ventricles of the heart. There are four chambers of the heart. Ventricles are the lower chambers while atria are the upper chambers of the heart. The blood flows from the atria to the ventricles. From the right ventricles, the blood is delivered to the lungs then goes back to the left ventricle before it is distributed to the rest of the body. The heartbeat or pulse that we feel is the result of an electric impulse produced by the electrical system of the heart which consists of the sinoatrial (SA) node and atrioventricular (AV) node.
Our heart has its own natural pacemaker which is the sinoatrial (SA) node. It is the one responsible for keeping the heart beating in a regular manner. When at rest, the heartbeat is usually low about 60 to 80 beats per minute. When you are exercising or in a state of excitement, the heartbeat becomes faster. During PVC, an electrical discharge arrives from the SA node even before the regular heartbeat. It may due to an electrical irritability caused by a lot of factors.
In general, PVCs are common especially for older people, people with high blood pressure, and heart disease. Most of the time, people who experience PVC do not feel any symptom. But then, if you are experiencing abnormal heartbeats how do you know if it is dangerous or not?
Most of the time, there are no symptoms prior to a PVC other than palpitations or uncomfortable feeling of the in your chest. You may feel pounding, fluttering, or flip-flops in your heart beat.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The best way to know if your PVC (Premature ventricular contraction) is dangerous or not is by going to the doctor. Prior to the checkup, you can list down the details of your irregular heartbeat. Describe the feeling precisely as possible. Take note how long you are experiencing the symptoms. You can also prepare beforehand a summary of your medical information. It will help you to avoid forgetting an important fact about your medical history. If you have any questions, you can also write it down prior to the appointment.
The most common test your doctor will require is an Electrocardiogram or ECG. It is the test that can detect the extra beats in your heart. It can also check the pattern and source of the irregular heartbeat. There are different kinds of ECG testing. The standard ECG usually uses sensors or electrodes which will be attached to your chest and limbs. The machine creates a record of the electrical signals that go through your heart.
After this, the doctor will be able to assess the cause of your PVC. In normal cases, PVC does not require any treatment. But if it is associated with other health condition such as an underlying heart disease or thyroid problem, you will require treatment for your health condition. Heart diseases can be very dangerous if left untreated. A change of lifestyle paired with medication can significantly decrease the symptoms of a heart disease which includes PVC.
Other health conditions that may cause PVC are high blood pressure, hypoxia, excessive alcohol, excessive caffeine, drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines, thyroid problems, and hypokalemia. It must be emphasized though that PVC may occur in a healthy person. Still, consulting a doctor is the best option even if you think that you do not have any underlying health conditions. Undergoing tests and diagnosis is the best way to know whether your PVC is dangerous or not. If it has become bothersome, there are medications and treatment options available.