Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

The most common symptom: a quivering or fluttering heartbeat


Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. The abnormal firing of electrical impulses causes the atria (the top chambers in the heart) to quiver (or fibrillate). View an animation of atrial fibrillation.

Additional common symptoms of atrial fibrillation


Sometimes people with AFib have no symptoms and their condition is only detectable upon physical examination. Still, others may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • General fatigue
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Fluttering or “thumping” in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Faintness or confusion
  • Fatigue when exercising
  • Sweating
  • *Chest pain or pressure
  • *Chest pain or pressure is a medical emergency. You may be having a heart attack. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

Are there different types of AFib? Do they have different symptoms?


The symptoms are generally the same; however ,the duration of the AFib and underlying reasons for the condition help medical practitioners classify the type of AFib problems.

  • "Paroxysmal fibrillation" is when the heart returns to a normal rhythm on its own within 7 days of its start. People who have this type of AFib may have episodes only a few times a year or their symptoms may occur every day. These symptoms are very unpredictable and often can turn into a permanent form of atrial fibrillation.
  • Persistent AFib is defined as an irregular rhythm that lasts for longer than 7 days. This type of atrial fibrillation will not return to normal sinus rhythm on its own and will require some form of treatment.
  • Permanent AFib occurs when the condition lasts indefinitely and the patient and doctor have decided not to continue further attempts to restore normal rhythm.

Over a period of time, "paroxysmal fibrillation" may become more frequent and longer lasting, sometimes leading to permanent or chronic AFib. All types of AFib can increase your risk of stroke. Even if you have no symptoms at all, you are nearly 5 times more likely to have a stroke than someone who doesn’t have atrial fibrillation.

How are heart attack symptoms different from AFib symptoms?


Fluttering and palpitations are key symptoms of AFib and is the key difference, but many heart problems have similar warning signs. If you think you may be having a heart attack, DON’T DELAY. Get emergency help by calling 9-1-1 immediately. A heart attack is a blockage of blood flow to the heart, often caused by a clot or build-up of plaque lodging in the coronary artery (a blood vessel that carries blood to part of the heart muscle). A heart attack can damage or destroy part of your heart muscle. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help.

People living with AFib should know the symptoms of a stroke


As stated earlier, having atrial fibrillation can put you at an increased risk for stroke. Here are the warning signs that you should be aware of:

Stroke Warning Signs - Spot a stroke F. A. S. T.

  • Face Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 9-1-1 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
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Recent Discussions From The Newly Diagnosed Forum
JohnnyTiger avatar

Hi everyone.  I was diagnosed with Paroxysmal Afib just over a month ago.  Episodes are now occuring about once a week and can last from a couple of hours to over 24 hours.  I'm physically fit and have been doing weight training and intense cardio most of my adult life.  Resting heart rate usually hovers around 57-58.   I eat well, am not a big drinker (weekends only), and have never smoked.  The episodes I've had are awful, my heartrate will bounce from 60 to 130 to 170 at the drop of a hat, and it's affected my performance at work and my quality of life.  My cardiologist has me on 10mg bisoprolol daily and 5mg Eliquis twice a day, I understand the importance of taking a blood thinner but the bisoprolol only seems to lower my HR at rest and does absolutely nothing during an AFib attack.  Supplements include Taurine, Ubiquinol, regular COQ10, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin K2.  

A couple of interesting points I've noted:

a.)  Attacks often come on when I'm lying down, relaxing on the couch.  

b.)  They are never triggered by food intake, alcohol, and are only seldom triggered by exercise

c.)  I have stopped a total of 3 attacks by jumping on my Assault Bike (basically an exercise bike with your upper body contributing) and doing 15 minutes of hard cardio at about 80% max effort.  I did this today as a matter of fact

d.)  Mild exercise (walking, yardwork, etc) does nothing to stop an attack

Anyway, just wanted to introduce myself and i look forward to learning more and forming a plan of action against this miserable condition

 

 

emeraldmezzo avatar

I'm a 67 year old female diagnosed a day ago. I'm on Eliquis and Cardizem (sp?). Will I ever live normally again? I get out of breath going to the mailbox or up one small flight of stairs? Will I ever walk a mile again? Or swim? Or vacuum my living room without shortness of breath? I feelike I'm 90.  I hate this and I'm frightened. I'm having a TEE test on Thursday. Any advice/support would be very much appreciated. 

winnifred55 avatar

Laying in bed on the morning of 11/30 I started getting a fast irregular heartbeat and was lightheaded, nauseated, and had chest tightness. After about an hour I called the doctor, who said to go to the ER. By the time I was able to get childcare and get to the hospital, it had resolved. They recommended following up with a cardiologist if I had further symptoms. 

Since then I've had frequent palpitations during the day and episodes that my fitbit has classified as afib every day or every other day lasting 5-10 minutes. Brought the PDFs of these to my first cardiology appointment and he diagnosed paroxysmal afib based on them and did an echo which came back normal. He put me on metropolol and said that after a few weeks of being on this, afib should go away and stay gone since I have no structural abnormalities. 

I've been on it for a week now, and still having a lot of palpitations. Slightly fewer afib episodes - only 3 in the last week, but they are lasting longer - closer to an hour. 

Has anyone ever had short term metropolol "cure" their afib?

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