Can gabapentin cause heart palpitations?

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In this blog post, we are going to answer the question, “Can gabapentin cause heart palpitations?”. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used for a number of conditions. 

However, this medicine can cause a number of side effects including heart palpitations. This blog will cover all there is to know about gabapentin induced heart palpitations. 

Can gabapentin cause heart palpitations? 

Yes, gabapentin can cause heart palpitations. Some people have experienced their heart beating too hard and fast after taking gabapentin. 

This side effect is most commonly experienced after an increase or decrease in dose, or when you start on a dose which is too high for you. It is also experienced while tapering off gabapentin. 

If you feel this way after taking your first ever gabapentin tablet, it could mean that the med doesn’t suit you or you’re too sensitive for the dose you are starting it with. 

A 2018 study has indicated that gabapentin can induce atrial fibrillation in elderly patients who had no signs of any cardiac problem prior to the use of this medication. This caused arrhythmia and heart palpitations in such patients. 

Report it to your doctor immediately, investigate any other explanations for it, and discuss what measures can be taken to address the problem.

It may be that gabapentin is not wise to use at the current dose you are taking, or that a different drug or a non-drug therapy would be more appropriate to work with at this point. 

What are heart palpitations? 

Heart palpitations are abnormal heartbeats, which are too hard and fast. You can literally feel your entire heart beating in your chest. You may notice heart palpitations in your chest, neck or shoulders.

They can be scary or bothersome. Palpitations are not that harmful and can fade away on their own, but they are considered dangerous when coupled with following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting

Is there anything you can do to get rid of gabapentin induced heart palpitations? 

Following are a few tips that might help relieve palpitations:

Try relaxing techniques

Relaxing techniques can surely calm a racing heart. You can try:

  • Deep inhaling and exhaling
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • If you’re working, try to take a break.
  • Sit down comfortably and have a cup of your favourite tea. 

Avoid taking stimulants

If you’re experiencing heart palpitations, the worst thing to do is consuming things which can stimulate cardiac muscle contraction even more. These include:

  • Illicit drugs
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Drinking too much caffeine and carbonated beverages
  • Appetite suppressants

Make sure your electrolytes are balanced

Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium etc play an important role in cardiac muscle contraction. Make sure your electrolytes are within normal range, not too low or not too high.

Stay hydrated

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Dehydration can disturb your blood volume which can trigger heart palpitations. 

Exercise regularly

Make sure you make exercise an important part of your routine. Cardio workouts can strengthen your heart muscles and make them able to withstand stress and pressure. This not only keeps your heart healthy, but can also prevent heart diseases. 

What other medications can cause heart palpitations? 

Some medications can cause heart palpitations, these include:

  • Anti-asthmatic medicines, which include salbutamol and ipratropium bromide
  • Antihypertensive agents 
  • Antihistamines, also called anti-allergies.
  • Antimicrobial therapy with macrolides, which include drugs like erythromycin, clarithromycin etc. Azithromycin of this class is the most common antibiotic for triggering heart palpitations in women. 
  • Antifungal medicines, which include ketoconazole, itraconazole etc.

Always contact your healthcare professional before starting the use of any medication.

What are the other causes of heart palpitations? 

Other health related causes of heart palpitations include:

lifestyle factors

  • emotions and psychological triggers
  • hormone changes
  • heart rhythm problems
  • heart conditions
  • other medical conditions

Lifestyle factors

Lifestyle factors are considered most important in regulating your heart rate and blood pressure. Palpitations can be triggered by high intensity exercises, excessive use of alcohol and caffeine, poor sleep quality, overeating or eating too much spicy food.

Palpitations triggered by such factors are not so dangerous and can go away on their own. However, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle if you don’t want them to come back.

Emotional or psychological factors

Heart palpitations are also often caused by emotions or psychological issues, such as excitement or nervousness, stress or anxiety and panic attacks (sudden, uncontrollable attacks of fear and worry. A patient might unwillingly exaggerate a certain condition and gets frightened)

Hormonal changes

Heart palpitations in women can sometimes be the result of hormonal changes that happen during periods, pregnancy, or menopause. In these cases, the palpitations are usually temporary and are not something to be concerned about. 

Problems associated with heart rhythms

Palpitations can also be triggered by some heart conditions associated with arrhythmia. These conditions include:

  • A condition called atrial fibrillation, in which heartbeats are fast and irregular.
  • A condition known as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which is characterised by unusual fast heartbeats.
  • A condition called ventricular tachycardia, which is a dangerous condition. It involves irregular heartbeat and can sometimes cause unconsciousness 

Other medical conditions

Other medical conditions that can cause heart palpitations include:

  • Hyperthyroidism, a condition in which there is overproduction of thyroid hormones by thyroid gland, as a result of its over activity
  • Hypoglycaemia, which in simple words mean low blood glucose level.
  • Anaemia, which indicates the deficiency of red blood cells. In this condition, the heart works faster to provide enough oxygen to all cells of the body. 
  • Orthostatic hypotension, a condition which causes dizziness triggered by standing up too fast.
  • Fever
  • Dehydration 

When to call your doctor

You don’t necessarily have to call your doctor if you experience palpitations, especially after your doctor has increased the dose of your gabapentin. 

Seeking medical care depends on the intensity of your palpitations. If they are strong and disabling, immediately contact your healthcare provider. If they are mild, don’t worry! It’s just your body trying to adapt to the new dose of gabapentin.

What are the additional side effects of gabapentin? 

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth 
  • Weight gain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Somnolence
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Vision problems 
  • Cloudy mind
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors 
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain 
  • Difficulty in remembering things
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Unsteadiness
  • Muscle twitching 
  • Constipation 
  • Back pain
  • Increased appetite 
  • Fever

Gabapentin can cause some serious side effects. These include:

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

These side effects can vary from person to person. It is impossible to predict how your body will react once it is exposed to this medication. Some people get away with mild side effects, while others suffer terribly. 

How to ensure the proper use of gabapentin? 

Immediately talk to your healthcare provider if you experience unusual side effects while taking gabapentin. Do not recommend this drug to someone else and use it as long as your doctor has advised. 

Inform your doctor if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive. It is extremely important to ensure safety of your meds during your pregnancy. Some meds can cross placenta and are capable of causing unwanted side effects in the growing fetus. 

Inform your doctor if you’re a breastfeeding mother. Gabapentin may be capable of passing into the breastmilk and may cause side effects in newborns. 

Do not stop gabapentin abruptly. If it’s time for you to stop this med, your doctor will simply recommend a taper schedule for you, which should be followed vigilantly if you wish to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. 

Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it. Using medications which can affect your brain is not something ideal and should not be encouraged unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. 

Make sure you discuss everything in detail with your healthcare provider and ask if you’re at the best possible dose of gabapentin. Also inform your doctor if you’re taking any other medication. 

Conclusion 

In this blog post, we have talked about gabapentin induced heart palpitations. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used for a number of conditions. However, this medicine can cause a number of side effects including heart palpitations. 

This side effect is most commonly experienced after an increase or decrease in dose, or when you start on a dose which is too high for you. It is also experienced while tapering off gabapentin. 

If you feel this way after taking your first ever gabapentin tablet, it could mean that the med doesn’t suit you or you’re too sensitive for the dose you are starting it with. Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it.

FAQs: can gabapentin cause heart palpitations 

Can gabapentin cause irregular heartbeats?

Yes, gabapentin can cause heart palpitations. Some people have experienced their heart beating too hard and fast after taking gabapentin. This side effect is most commonly experienced after an increase or decrease in dose, or when you start on a dose which is too high for you. It is also experienced while tapering off gabapentin.

Does gabapentin affect your heart rate?

Yes, gabapentin can affect your heart rate. The intensity of this side effect varies from person to person. Some people may suffer from terrible arrhythmia and heart palpitations while others may not feel a thing. 

What is the most common side effect of gabapentin?

The most common side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth 
  • Weight gain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Somnolence
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Vision problems 
  • Cloudy mind
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors 
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain 
  • Difficulty in remembering things
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Unsteadiness
  • Muscle twitching 
  • Constipation 
  • Back pain
  • Increased appetite 
  • Fever

What drugs should not be taken with gabapentin?

  • Narcotic analgesics: Both narcotic opioid analgesics and gabapentin decrease the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain. This can slow down your physiological functions including breathing rate. 
  • Alcohol can also act as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. The synergistic effects of alcohol and gabapentin can cause severe depression and suicidal behavior.
  • Certain diabetic agents may react with gabapentin and cause increased water retention, which results in swelling or edema in upper and lower extremities, or any other part of the body.

Does gabapentin cause long-term damage?

Gabapentin can cause some serious side effects. These include:

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

References 

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