Ectopic Heartbeat causes, diagnoses, and symptoms. What about PAC’s and PVC’s

The “benign” condition that causes so much anxiety.

Photo by Bash Fish on Unsplash


I have had a few ectopic heartbeats in my time and it can be very scary!

It’s the beat then the pause and then the HARD beat. Some of you know exactly what I mean. That forceful beat brings a lot of relief after that PAUSE!!

Here’s the deal.

You will agree with me that any “EXTRA” heartbeat that you can physically feel in your body or neck can upset you.

Here is some of the stuff that I have learned about this -“extra”- ectopic heartbeat thing.


Ectopic means “wrong place” as stated in Ectopic Heart Beats AF Association Australia Patient Information. There is something like an ectopic pregnancy or ectopic eruption (a tooth on the wrong path -basically) So an ectopic heartbeat is a heartbeat that is too early, it’s at the wrong place of the heart rhythm.

It can also be an “extra” beat from the Atria (upper chambers of the heart) or the Ventricles (lower chambers of the heart). It occurs before the normal beat. These “extra” beats can also feel like “thuds” or “forceful” beats that some people feel in their neck.

Ectopic heartbeats are very common and mostly harmless in people who have no other heart disease, but they are scary and can put some people in a panic attack( that included me for a while). Many people are totally unaware that they have an ectopic heartbeat from time to time.According to Dr Sanjay Gupta having ectopic heartbeats is normal but feeling them is not so normal. This can be linked to people with health anxiety issues.


It's not easy to explain the causes of ectopic heartbeats. Doctors are not always 100% sure what causes it. Some triggers may be:

High blood pressure



Lack of sleep

Alcohol or drug misuse

Some medications like antihistamines and decongestants.

Lung disease

Caffeine anxiety or anything that causes your heart to race.

If the condition (ectopic heartbeats)persists it may be that there is an underlying condition.


Your story! for most of the part.

Yes, sometimes it is difficult to pick up the ectopic heartbeats, and a health professional only has your story to go on. An electrocardiogram, ECG or portable monitor can confirm the diagnosis, but it depends on how regular your ectopic heartbeats are.

These exams and tests which would also include a physical exam (Medline Plus) may often not show ectopic heartbeats. If your ECG is normal and there are no symptoms your doctor may say that no other tests are needed and you are OK.

This does not mean that it’s just in your head! It just means that it cannot be picked up during the examination period. Your health professional will know what to look for if there are any other serious heart or health problems.


You feel your heartbeat and the palpitations.

It feels like your heart stops, or skips a beat.

There may be forceful or hard beats that you can even feel in your neck.

Your heart is pounding.

Or there may be no symptoms at all!


Premature Atrial Contraction (PAC) which originates in the heart’s Atria (upper chambers) or,

Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC) when the premature beat comes from the Ventricles (lower chambers) of the heart.


I have experienced most of my ectopic heartbeats, if not all when I had a full or bloated stomach. The feeling that my stomach had something to do with this extra hard beats was always there. To explain this to my doctor always felt so stupid. The way I made sense of it was the following: Because I have an enlarged atrium I thought my heart was larger than normal and because of that, when my stomach was full, I could “feel” my heartbeats.

The real reason is a bit more complex and I will do my best to try and explain it.

The vagus nerve is also called the wandering nerve because it travels throughout the body. It actually extends from the brain to the stomach. It is also called the “mixed” nerve because signals are going in both ways. An irritated vagus nerve causes symptoms that vary widely.

How ectopic beats happen or start I will explain in another post.

When my stomach expands due to overeating or excess gas my vagus nerve comes under pressure. This sends haywire signals to my brain and heart and causes ectopics. Usually, my ectopic heartbeats do not last very long.

Burping or passing gas/wind works wonders for me, and rescues me from my ectopic heartbeats.

Everyone is different and maybe taking extra magnesium, probiotics, chewing your food better, taking ginger capsules, or just moving around and adjusting your position can help.

I am no Doctor or health professional and am only speaking out of my own experience and research. Please ask your own doctor, caregiver, or health professional, if you want to take any new supplement or do a vagus/vagal maneuver. But do ask as many questions as you can.

If this was helpful please let me know, and leave a comment.

Have you had any ectopic heartbeats?

Share, clap, tweet, or leave a comment. Blogger, Tetralogy of Fallot(TOF), AFIB(Atrial fibrillation) and panic! survivor. Mountain Biker.Married and father of 2.South African.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store