Atrial fibrillation is often discovered during routine
medical checkups, because many people don't have symptoms. Others may notice an
irregular pulse but don't have other symptoms.
Mild symptoms of atrial fibrillation may
occur immediately. More serious problems may occur after the start of
atrial fibrillation and over the course of several days. So it is important to
identify symptoms and get treatment as soon as possible.
- Heart palpitations.
- Irregular pulse.
- Shortness of
breath, especially during physical activity or emotional
- Weakness, fatigue.
- Chest pain.
- Lightheadedness or fainting (syncope).
Checking your pulse
Checking your pulse is important, because many people don't have symptoms of atrial
fibrillation. Ask your doctor how often you should check your heartbeat. Once a month might be right for you.
If you notice that your heartbeat doesn't have a regular
rhythm, talk to your doctor.
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
When atrial fibrillation comes on suddenly, lasts a short time, and goes away on its own, it is called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Typically, over time, episodes of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation come on more often and last longer.
Persistent atrial fibrillation
Over time, episodes of
atrial fibrillation typically last longer and often don't go away on their own. If an episode lasts more than 7 days, this is called persistent atrial fibrillation. Treatment with medicine or cardioversion can restore a normal rhythm. This normal rhythm may last for several weeks or longer before atrial fibrillation happens again.
Permanent atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation might start to happen all of the time. If atrial fibrillation has happened all of the time for at least 1 year, this is called permanent atrial fibrillation. Your treatments have not restored a normal rhythm, or you and your doctor have decided to stop trying to restore a normal rhythm.
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
John M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
December 14, 2012