What Does AFib Feel Like?
AFib, or atrial fibrillation, is not the same for everyone. People can have different symptoms depending on a few different factors. If you think you may have AFib, this article can tell you more about what you may be experiencing.
There are three types of AFib
AFib is a progressive disease that can get worse over time if left untreated. Here are the three ways doctors classify AFib.
1. Paroxysmal AFib
Paroxysmal AFib is identified by distinct episodes of discomfort. Sometimes that can last several minutes, while other times it can last a few days. If you have this kind of AFib attack you will definitely notice. You may feel your heart palpitating or get the sensation that your heart is skipping a beat every now and then. This kind of AFib tends to be unpredictable.
Paroxysmal AFib can sometimes go away if you make the right lifestyle adjustments or get the right medication from your doctor. The key is to address it early so it does not get worse.
2. Persistent AFib
Paroxysmal AFib gets upgraded to persistent AFib when the symptoms last for more than a week. At that point, the heart most likely won't go back to a normal rhythm on its own. You'll most likely feel more prolonged versions of the same symptoms as well. Those with persistent AFib experience a racing heartbeat, dizziness, palpitations, weakness, and fatigue.
Since the heart is "stuck" in arrhythmia, doctors will have to do something to get it back to normal. This is usually done one of two ways. The first is through a minor electrical shock using paddles. The second is using certain drugs administered through an IV.
3. Chronic AFib
At this third and final stage, the AFib is irreversible. In chronic AFib, the treatments we mentioned above simply don't work. There is a procedure called a catheter ablation that cauterizes some electrical pathways to the heart, but even this is not guaranteed to fix the problem. In these cases, people either have continuous bouts of AFib symptoms or experience them all the time. The constant stress of feeling a heart arrhythmia can cause stress in and of itself, making things worse.
No matter what stage of AFib someone has, there is a group of symptoms they experience. The difference is in the level of severity and specific case. One person may have extreme dizzy spells while another may find themselves with acute chest pain. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should speak with your doctor.
- excessive or unexplained sweating
- heart palpitations
- fluttering in the chest
- unexplained anxiety
- chest pain
Not sure if you're at risk for (or already have) AFib? Get screened!
AFib can be asymptomatic until it progresses to a more severe stage. Many people have AFib and don't even realize it.
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This article has been reviewed by the Life Line Screening clinical team. You can learn more about this team of experts HERE.