Font Size

Atrial Fibrillation (cont.)

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Symptoms

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation vary from person to person.

  • A number of people have no symptoms.
  • The most common symptom in people with intermittent atrial fibrillation is palpitations, a sensation of rapid or irregular heartbeat. This may make some people very anxious. Many people also describe an irregular fluttering sensation in their chests. This irregular fluttering sensation is due to the irregular rapid ventricular response (rvr) of the ventricles to the rapid irregular atrial electrical activity.
  • Some people become light-headed or faint.
  • Other symptoms include weakness, lack of energy or shortness of breath with effort, and chest pain or angina.

There are a few patients that have potentially life-threatening AFib symptoms that need immediate attention and intervention with electric cardioversion. The symptoms and signs are as follows:

When to Seek Medical Care for Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

Individuals should call for treatment within 24 hours if they have atrial fibrillation that comes and goes, have previously been evaluated and treated, and are not experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, or fainting.

Patients should call their doctor or cardiologist if they have persistent atrial fibrillation while on medical therapy for the condition if symptoms worsen or new symptoms such as fatigue or mild shortness of breath occur.

Patients should call their doctor or pharmacist if they have questions about medications and dosages.

Call 9-1-1 for emergency medical services when atrial fibrillation occurs with any of the following:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting or light headedness
  • Weakness
  • Very rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Low blood pressure

Not all heart palpitations are atrial fibrillation, but a continuing feeling of heart fluttering in the chest together with a fast or slow pulse should be evaluated by a doctor or at a hospital emergency department. For example, the patient could be having atrial flutter (rapid, regular electrical impulses of about 250-300 impulses per minute from the atrial tissue causing a rapid ventricular response [rvr] or rapid heartbeat) or a sinus tachycardia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/26/2015

Must Read Articles Related to Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Flutter
Atrial Flutter Atrial flutter is a type of arrythmia, that is, an irregularity in the beating of the heart. Atrial flutter is caused by as misfiring of electrical nerve impuls...learn more >>
Blood Clots
Blood Clots Blood is supposed to clot to help repair a blood vessel that is injured. Clots or thrombi become a problem when they form inappropriately. There are a variety o...learn more >>
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive Heart Failure The heart is a pump that works together with the lungs. It pumps blood in two ways. Congestive heart failure is a serious condition, but it can be managed.learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Atrial Fibrillation (AFib):

Atrial Fibrillation - Effective Treatments

What types of procedures (for example cardioversion) have you undergone for AFib?

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) - Blood Thinning Medications

Do you take blood thinners? If so, please share your experience with the medications you have taken or are currently taking.

Atrial Fibrillation - Symptoms

What are your atrial fibrillation symptoms?

Atrial Fibrillation - Experience

Do you or someone you love have AFib? Please share your experience if you feel it may help others.

Atrial Fibrillation - Non Blood Clotting Medications

Do you take non blood thinking medications for AFib? If so, please share your experience with finding the right medication.

Atrial Fibrillation Slideshow

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Atrial Fibrilation »

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a supraventricular tachyarrhythmia characterized by disorganized atrial electrical activity and progressive deterioration of atrial electromechanical function.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary