Atrial fibrillation is a common heart condition that may or may not have symptoms. It can be brought about by other conditions and even occur among those who are healthy and do not have health issues.
What are the possible symptoms?
If an individual has symptoms, it might include one or any of the following:
- Erratic or rapid heart rate
- Pounding or racing sensation in the chest
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Lightheadedness or dizziness that can lead to fainting
- Fatigue or weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to exercise
If an individual does not have any symptoms, the doctor will diagnose atrial fibrillation via a routine medical exam.
Atrial fibrillation occurs once the upper chambers of the heart beat erratically. This prevents the blood from flowing through the heart and body properly, thus increasing the risk for blood clots and even a stroke.
The condition can be managed in various ways. The treatment depends on the type the individual is diagnosed with. An individual might start with one type and then progress to another.
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
This occurs when the heart goes in and out of the normal rhythm for less than a week. It can occur for a few minutes or feel it for several days. Treatment is not needed for this type but a doctor should be consulted.
This type is oftentimes called “holiday heart syndrome” since it occurs among otherwise healthy individuals who celebrate during late night outs or having a few more drinks. It can also occur if under extreme stress.
Persistent atrial fibrillation
This occurs longer than a week and can stop on its own, but it might require medication or treatment.
The doctor might utilize medications to manage this type. If not effective, a low-voltage current is utilized to reset the rhythm of the heart to a normal state. This procedure is performed in a healthcare facility after being sedated.
A long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation persists longer than a year and does not settle. Medications and treatment such as electrical cardioversion will not stop an episode.
Permanent atrial fibrillation
This type could not be corrected and the doctor will decide whether or not long-term medications are needed to control the heart rate and minimize the risk for a stroke.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on atrial fibrillation is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage circulatory emergencies including atrial fibrillation, register for a first aid and CPR course with one of our training providers.