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
emrefaks avatar

Hi all,

I'm a 9-day old AF rookie all the way from Turkey. I'm 47 and have been exercising many kind of sports since my childhood days. Nowadays, mainly running some half and full marathons, strength & conditioning workouts plus yoga as active recovery. 

I always had some palpitations, minor chest pain and the likes, therefore never skipped check-ups (including BT scans too) on regular basis and -all the times- been told that my heart was in perfect shape to maintain my active life. 


Until that Sunday night, 9 days ago...

11PM that Sunday night, I woke up with some major and unmanageble palpitations and waited until morning with a hope that it will soon get better but it did not. Then I drove to the ER at the regular hospital that I always used to go and faced the reality that my heart had been out of sinus rythm and went into AF. 3 hour-long medication did not reverse it and I've been moved up to the cardiological intensive care for further protocals. It took approximately 5 hours to get back to the sinus rythm through ongoing medication either taken orally or through vascular access. Doctors kept medicating for an extra 4 hours and then discontinue. From that point on, they started closely monitoring my situation for like 10 hours. Finally, I was discharged from the hospital and allowed to drive back home. 

Yesterday morning, I went to see my Cardilogist, who had been on holiday during my episode, to find out that:

1. I was a lucky one since my heart shouted that it had been hit by AF. She underlined there are incidents that AF comes without any syptoms but can be a cause of stroke or more serious heart diseases. At least we know who and where the enemy is... 

2. My prescription only includes beta-blockers and anti-arythmics but not blood thinners which was shockingly surprising to me. I even challanged her (BTW. she is a Professor, specialised on arthmia) that without thinners, I would have much bigger risk of stroke based on the things I've read on Internet. She very bluntly highlighted several times that each AF was different and it was "stupid" to treat each AF'ers in standart ways. Some patients might desperately need thinners but some don't, simply based on several other factors. 

3. Keeping a healthier mind is key. Otherwise, you will not be able to sleep efficiently, lose appetite (ie. not enough carb to feed to your heart) and always be in a negative mood only thinking and talking about your conditions which there is nothing you can stop it from being there! Hypochondria should be the last thing for any AF'ers to experience. Therefore I'm also given some light medications to keep my mind well.

4. Exercise in ways planned by your doctor helps a great deal. There are even some athletes that have been carried on playing with or without knowing that they had been an AF'er such as Larry Bird. We are not superstars but much simplier human beings therfore I already said a heartbreaking "Goodbye" to marathon. However this doesn't mean that I will quit running either. The formula I've been proived by my doctor: 220-47 (my age) = 173 is the maximum calculated HR (MCHR). However in my conditions; I'm adviced to start running on 50% of the MCHR which is around 90 BPM, almost a fast walking pace. If all goes well, I'll start increasing the % until 75% which will give me enough pace to start jogging at least. 

5. And finally, do not waste your time reading some bosh staff at Internet. I'm writting this post HERE (i.e. a very well trusted and informative publishment), as this was also suggested by my doctor as a part of my progress plan. Where I live (ie. Turkey) is full of some silly content regarding AF unfortunately. At every article I've ever read, there was major drama which made me feel even much worse. And believe me, after a while your body start emulating eveything you read. I cannot tell you how many times I thought my brain had been shot by clot or my energy levels had been sub-zero. But it was all illusive because of the things I've been exposed to heavily. 

To cut a long stroy short: I'd never wanted to end up being an AF'er. But whatever happened happened and there is nothing I can do to send this back. I'm new and aware that I will have some tough times along the way. However, I have a plan and intention to make things as comfortable as my conditions will allow. 

Nice to meet you all, Emre  




58brendaB avatar

Hi I am new here and I just want to introduce myself.
--- Not really sure where I am supposed to post --- Sorry I have in a couple places


A little background , I am 61 now ( 2019 )
I have had AF since 2014 
Once a yr prior I went to the ER with what they said was tachycardia. They sent me home saying I was under stress - I had had a loss in the family.

Two yrs later in 2014 I was sitting at the table and my heart was racing.

Decided to go to the hospital because I was attempting to take my BP with a home cuff and it would not register.

My heart rate at the hospital was over 220
I converted approx 7 hours later with medication. I was admitted and spent 3 days.Hospital Dr said I needed metoprolol and blood thinners. In his words OR I was going to die.( NICE TO HEAR AS I WAS ALREADY SCARED)

Ever since my first bout of AF I have had ringing in ONE EAR 24/7 365
Cardiologist says it was unrelated, however it happened at that exact time & I have no reason to believe it isn't related.

I went to ENT, 2 neurologists , Ear Dr, and PCP had every test known including a brain scan all found nothing wrong. BUT, It persists to this day.


I had a cardiologist from my previous episode of tachycardia & I went to see him and he told me there was a 5 point system to determine treatment and I was under 1.
He suggested Propanolol ( 10mg) AS NEEDED and an aspirin daily. The aspirin was lowered to ½ and then eliminated due to a new study that it is ineffective in treatment.He said when I am 65 we will re-evaluate treatment.

I do NOT have HBP ( it does spike in an episode ) or any other conditions. I am overweight

I have had a stress test ,EKG'S and a halter monitor a couple times
I take

Magnesium Oxide 600mg.




Sometimes potassium and B12 and fish oil

& drink A LOT of water
No caffeine

I do have episodes of AF
In the last 2 years I have had 5
I take pill as soon as I feel it and generally convert within a hour & all is well.UNLESS, I have a long bout which lasts a couple maybe 4 hours + and required 2 pills.


For days sometimes weeks I am off.

I have some breakthrough palpitations and I am SO exhausted I can't function.

I am woozy – not light headed more like swaying  on a ship. Not moving helps.In turn I get nervous anxiety, then sometimes palpitations.

I do feel it is related to the ringing in my ear & is triggered with AF But that is of little comfort. They say It takes time to “balance out”

I have tried ( Dr suggested) water-pills and mucinex as well as benadryl sometimes it will help a little Others times not at all.

Does ANYONE else have this kind of experience ? I really need some input!!! I am week 3 after an episode and this one is really difficult.

DukesDad avatar

I was diagnosed with paroxysmal AFib almost 4 months ago and have had 19 episodes since.  Meds have reduced the episodes greatly, with the most recent 6 Afib episodes averaging 6 to 12 hours, once every 7 days.  Over half have occurred between midnight and 6 am, so a sleep apnea study has been ordered.  The episodes have not proven to be debilitating and have been dealt with by just limiting my activity.


My wife and I have been planning a much needed 2 week international trip to Spain and Majorca in October.  My cardiologist didn't say no when I asked, but he didn't seem that enthusiastic either.  His concern seemed to be more over the long flight at altitude serving as a trigger.  He does not consider me to be as being at great risk of stroke since I have only a single risk factor. and am in good health other than a little overweight.


Is traveling internationally with Afib of high concern?  Should I postpone the trip till my Afib episodes are under better control?

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