Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms
Some people with atrial fibrillation (Afib) experience no symptoms at all and are completely unaware of their condition. For those that do experience symptoms, they can occur in brief episodes or on a regular, more permanent basis. Although arrhythmias such as Afib are very common, should you experience any of the symptoms below, it’s recommended that you see your doctor right away, as these can also be signs of a more serious condition.
Some patients experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations: rapid, fluttering or pounding sensations
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness, which can lead to fainting
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
As a result of its uncoordinated contractions, the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body becomes impaired, leading to an inadequate supply of oxygen. Confusion is often due to a decreased oxygen supply to the brain. Chest discomfort may also be a result of inadequate oxygen as well as a possible symptom of worsening heart failure.
Afib is one of the leading risk factors for stroke. Strokes caused by Afib tend to be more severe than strokes due to other causes. As a result of blood pooling in the heart, a clot may form and later break off and enter the circulation. The blood clot can block a critical blood vessel to the brain or other organ, thereby causing a stroke.
To reduce stroke risk, many Afib patients take blood thinners (such as aspirin or clopidogrel) or anticoagulants to help prevent the formation of blood clots. Popular anticoagulants include warfarin and newer pharmaceutical agents such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and apixaban.
Other stroke risk factors include:
- Age: Particularly those over the age of 55
- A family history of stroke
- Ethnicity: African Americans have a higher incidence of stroke than Caucasians
- Gender: Women have more strokes and a higher mortality rate than men
- A prior history of stroke