Dr. Jennifer Hanna, cardiothoracic surgeon at The Medical Center of Aurora describes AFib as, "When you put your hand on your chest, if your heart feels like its racing rather than that familiar 'lub-dub' beat and the feeling lasts for a few minutes, this could be a sign that you have a condition called atrial fibrillation (AFib for short)."
You might feel the following symptoms:
- Heart pounding, racing, or "fluttering"
- Quick or uneven pulse
- Pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest
- Dizziness, faintness, or light-headedness
- Shortness of breath
- Tired or weak
"You might feel a flutter or quiver in your chest when your heart beats", Hanna continues, "Your heart might beat faster than usual, pound, or race. Sometimes your heart will skip a beat. The feeling often lasts for a few minutes, but goes on longer with some forms than others." But not everyone feels their heart racing. The signs can be so vague that you don't think they're caused by a heart condition. You may think you're just out of shape or just don't feel like yourself. And some people have no symptoms at all.
Your doctor may pick up signs of AFib at a regular physical using tests like an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) that track the electrical signals your heart makes as it beats.
And in fact, if your AFib continues for many months or years, you can reach the point where you barely notice the symptoms. But not having significant symptoms doesn't mean that it doesn't need to be treated. When you have this condition, faulty electrical signals make your heart beat too fast or flutter. This stops your heart from pumping as well as it should. In fact, your blood flow can slow enough to pool or even form clots, which raises your chance for stroke, other heart complications, and even complications with blood vessels in other parts of your body. Besides medications that are used to control your AFib and prevent these complications, you may even benefit from having your heart brought back into the right rhythm.