PVC stands for premature ventricular contractions, sometimes also called extrasystoles or ventricular ectopic beats.
PVCs are a form of cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, in which the heartbeat deviates from its normal rhythm. More specifically, PVCs are extra beats that occur before the rest of the heartbeat. They’re caused by an electrical signal that originates in the ventricles, the heart’s lower chambers.
PVCs are fairly common. They’re not always noticeable, but when they are, they may feel like a missed beat or a palpitation. In some cases, the electrical impulse’s cause isn’t identified. In others, it may be linked to heart conditions, several other kinds of health problems or lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking, stress, or excessive consumption of caffeine or other stimulants.
While anything unusual related to the heart can be scary for the patient, PVCs often present no danger to your health and frequently are not indicative of heart disease. Sometimes, however, frequent PVCs can progress to more serious forms of arrhythmia. They are also dangerous when they occur in people with existing heart disease.
When the doctor determines that no underlying heart disease is present, PVCs may not require any treatment unless they’re particularly bothersome to the patient. When treatment is necessary, it may involve addressing the possible causes of the arrhythmia as well as treating any underlying heart disease. The heart medications known as beta blockers are useful in reducing PVCs along with the danger they pose to heart patients.