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.
Recent Discussions From The Newly Diagnosed Forum
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?

dvaughan avatar

Hi, I was diagnosed in 2017. My doctor put me on Eloquis and Metoprolo and I didn't have another attack until 11/23/20. My heart rate went to 141. I went to the hospital and they were able to get the rate down and BP down. They tell me I have no blockages or clots. I'm staying on the same meds, and was released yesterday. Today my rate spiked to 131 BP. Dr's office is closed for the holidays and I just need to know if this is normal and what I can do to stop these spikes? Any help is appreciated. 

Neanderthal avatar

I was diagnosed about 1.5 yrs. ago.  For the most part I was prescribed Metroprolol, Eliquis and Flecainide.  The medications controlled my AFIB but I didn't like the side effects which was that when I did exercise, which I do most days, my heart rate would not come up.  It would stay around 60 bpm.  I got one of those Kardia electrocardiograms for around $100.  I monitored myhself and slowly weaned myself off of those medications by ensuring that I stay fully hydrated and staying away from salty/fatty foods.  I believe that getting dehydrated and/or eating salty/fatty foods will trigger an AFIB episode in me.  I'm 57 and the only health issue I have/had is AFIB.  I recommend trying to improve your diet and stay very hydrated to see if this helps you.

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