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Skipped heartbeats, medically known as ectopic heartbeat, are caused due to an irregularity in the heart rate. The person experiencing this condition may feel as if his heart has skipped or missed a beat. The skipped beats are of two kinds, namely, Premature Atrial Contractions (PAC) and Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC). PAC are the beats that arise from the upper chambers of the heart, known as atria, while PVC are the ones that arise from the lower chambers, known as ventricles.

Causes
  • A person may skip a heartbeat, if the blood supply to his heart decreases due to a condition known as ischemia.
  • Chemical imbalances in the blood, such as low potassium levels, is another reason behind this heart problem.
  • If the oxygen level in the blood falls or, if a person has anemia, this condition can be experienced.
  • A person, who is taking certain medications, such as, thyroid pills, beta blockers, asthma drugs, etc., can experience a change in his heart rhythm too.
  • Excess of alcohol, smoking, and caffeine can lead to this condition in a person.
  • In children as well as adults, it could be due to a heart disease.
  • In adults, there has been a link found between anxiety and irregular heartbeats. A person suffering from stress and depression is more likely to experience this heart problem than a normal person.
  • Hyperthyroidism, a condition, in which, excess of the thyroid hormone is made by the thyroid gland, can lead to heart palpitations.
  • Skipped heartbeats after eating could be due to a medical condition known as Mitral Valve Prolapse, in which, the valve of the heart that separates the atrium does not close appropriately.
Treatment

Sometimes, ectopic heartbeats can occur in a person without any apparent reason. And, in majority cases, they are benign, and hence, require no treatment at all. However, contacting a doctor is necessary to rule out any cardiac problem or other health condition, which might be causing them.

The doctor, first of all, conducts a physical examination of the person to detect an irregular pulse. However, if it is not experienced by the person frequently, a physical examination will fail to detect it. Next, blood tests are undertaken to rule out any abnormalities in the blood. Some other tests that may be conducted are, ECG, Echocardiogram, Coronary angiography, and ambulatory cardiac monitoring. If these tests diagnose an underlying medical condition as the cause behind an irregular pulse, treatment to cure the same is undertaken.

To minimize this, a person should reduce his caffeine intake, quit smoking and drinking, and take certain measures, such as performing yoga to manage stress and anxiety. Also, by trying not to pay too much attention to the change in heart rhythms, a person can minimize their occurrence.

Skipped heartbeats, as mentioned above, are usually not a cause of serious concern. However, if the pulse becomes more than hundred per minute, and is accompanied by symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty in breathing, sweating, and if the person already has a history of illnesses such as, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, a doctor should be contacted immediately, as it can prove to be fatal.