What are the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart rhythm disorder that can lead to a variety of symptoms and complications. The symptoms of atrial fibrillation can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Irregular Heartbeat: AFib is characterized by a rapid and irregular heartbeat. You may feel your heart racing or fluttering in your chest.
  • Heart Palpitations: You may experience palpitations, which are a strong, rapid, or irregular heartbeat that you can feel in your chest, neck, or throat.
  • Fatigue: AFib can lead to persistent fatigue or a general lack of energy, which can impact your ability to perform daily activities.
  • Shortness of Breath: You may have difficulty breathing or feel breathless, especially during physical activity or when lying down.
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Some individuals with AFib may experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or even fainting (syncope) due to the irregular heart rhythm affecting blood flow to the brain.
  • Chest Pain or Discomfort: While AFib itself doesn’t typically cause chest pain, underlying heart conditions that may coexist can lead to chest discomfort.
  • Anxiety: Living with the awareness of an irregular heartbeat can cause anxiety and stress in some individuals.
  • Weakness or Confusion: In severe cases or with rapid ventricular response (when the heart beats too fast), there may be a feeling of weakness or confusion.

It’s important to note that some people with atrial fibrillation may not experience any noticeable symptoms, which is known as “silent AFib.” Even without symptoms, AFib can still increase the risk of stroke and other heart-related complications.

AFib can be diagnosed through an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and other cardiac tests. Treatment may involve medication to control heart rate or rhythm, blood-thinning medications to reduce stroke risk, lifestyle changes, and sometimes procedures like cardioversion or catheter ablation to restore a normal heart rhythm.

If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect you have atrial fibrillation, it is important to seek medical evaluation and treatment, as AFib can lead to serious health issues, particularly an increased risk of stroke. Early diagnosis and management are key to reducing complications and improving the quality of life for individuals with this condition.