What are Signs and Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?

What are signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation? How do you know if your symptoms could be due to atrial fibrillation? This is something that a lot of people ask questions about. What does atrial fibrillation feel like? How do you know if you have atrial fibrillation? There are people out there that have not been diagnosed yet with atrial fibrillation and are having symptoms and want to know if it is possible to have atrial fibrillation.

Let's talk about possible symptoms related to atrial fibrillation. The hardest part about this discussion is there are many people who feel their atrial fibrillation very differently.

Let's start off with the most common way in which a person feels atrial fibrillation. First possible symptom is just the feeling of the heart going fast. When people get episodes of atrial fibrillation, the heart rate may suddenly go from a normal range like 60 to 80 beats a minute to a very rapid heart beat like 130, 140 sometimes even higher than that, so people will feel their heart racing or pounding, sometimes the heart may feel like a fish flopping or thunder pounding. These symptoms just feels like a hard, fast beat. That's probably one of the most common ways that someone feels atrial fibrillation.

Another way people feel atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat. Irregular heartbeat means that the heartbeat is not a nice, steady heartbeat, it may go at a certain pace, then skip, or stutter and doesn't go at a nice, steady pace. That's sort of more of a flip-flopping or skipping type of feeling, which is how some people feel atrial fibrillation. This is more of a common feeling for people who have atrial fibrillation where the heart rate is not going that fast. If the heart rate is pretty fast, more typically people feel the heart pounding, but when it's not that fast it may feel more like a skipping feeling.


Those are some of the feelings directly related to the heart rate or rhythm, but there are also more associated symptoms that may come from atrial fibrillation.

Another symptom is chest pain. Some people when they have their heart rate going very fast, they don't necessarily feel the heart pounding or going fast, they just feel a pain or throbbing in their chest from the atrial fibrillation and in those people this can be a sign of underlying coronary artery disease. Unfortunately the risk factors to get atrial fibrillation are very similar to the risk factors that people have when they have coronary artery disease. When people have chest pain with their atrial fibrillation, it's very important to get screening performed for coronary artery disease, such as with a stress test.

What are other symptoms of atrial fibrillation? Another symptom would be shortness of breath. Shortness of breath happens for a lot of reasons, but when it comes to atrial fibrillation, sometimes people don't feel that heart going fast or irregular, they just feel more short of breath. When patients do their activities, they just notice that they're more easily short of breath and that can be a sign of atrial fibrillation.

Sometimes people don't necessarily feel short of breath, they may just feel tired, and excess tiredness can also be a sign of atrial fibrillation.

Of course there are also people out there who absolutely feel nothing. Their heart rate can be going very fast and you can imagine how fast it may going; 130, 150, and they hardly feel anything. There are many people out there who don’t feel any symptoms from AFib and those people they tend to get diagnosed accidentally that they have atrial fibrillation.

In summary, there's a wide variety of symptoms that people feel with they have their atrial fibrillation. It can be the heart going fast or pounding, irregular, maybe chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and sometimes no symptoms at all. This is why it's challenging to describe symptoms of atrial fibrillation because people feel it very differently.

If you're having some of these symptoms, and you think that you may have atrial fibrillation, please discuss with your doctor or have a referral for a Cardiologist so you can get proper testing to see if your symptoms coincide with episodes of atrial fibrillation.

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