Is a Pulsing Sensation a Symptom of Heart Problems?

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A pulsation is the feeling of one's heartbeat. There are times when feeling a pulsing sensation is normal, but prolonged or recurring pulsing sensations may be an indication of heart-related problems.

Normal

  • It is normal to notice a pulsing sensation, also known as palpitations, when situations of extreme stress and anxiety occur. This sensation occurs when adrenalin is released into the bloodstream, often during the "fight or flight" syndrome. This syndrome prepares the body for potential activity that could occur in response to stress or anxiety.

Abnormal Pulsations

  • Abnormal pulsations or palpitations in the heart often occur because of an abnormality with the heart or within the heart muscle. These pulsing sensations are a symptom rather than a specific problem and warrant investigating if they occur frequently. Abnormal pulsations can indicate problems with the heart's electrical conductivity or heart valves, or abnormalities such as blockages within the heart muscle's blood supply. Abnormal pulsing sensations within the neck often indicate blockages in the carotid arteries, and noticeable pulsing sensations in the abdomen can indicate an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The abnormal feeling of pulsations may also indicate a problem with the thyroid gland.

Testing

  • One of the most common tests for complaints of pulsing sensations is an electrocardiogram (EKG). This simple test can indicate if there is a problem with the heart's electrical conduction and can often show if there is a possible blockage in one of the cardiac arteries. An echocardiogram, or ultrasound, of the heart will show if there is a problem with the heart valves or structure of the heart. An abdominal ultrasound can determine if a pulsing sensation in the abdomen is the result of an aneurysm and an ultrasound of the carotid arteries can check to see if there is a blockage of the carotid articles. Blood tests may indicate if the pulsing sensation is due to a problem with the thyroid gland.

Treatment

  • Treatment for pulsing sensations of the heart can include medications to regulate the heartbeat or lower blood pressure. Blockages of the arteries of the heart or carotid arteries may require surgery to alleviate the blockages or create a bypass around them. An abdominal aneurysm often requires surgery to prevent rupture of the abnormal part of the aortic artery. Abnormal pulsations due to problems with the thyroid gland often respond well to medications.

Prognosis

  • If treatment is sought early, the prognosis for someone suffering from pulsing sensations is good. If, however, treatment is delayed, prognosis is often guarded, depending on the cause of the pulsing sensations.

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