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Atrial Fibrillation Part II of II

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Atrial Fibrillation Part II of II



Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation


Many people with AFib don’t feel any symptoms.   Others are able to tell the moment it occurs.   The symptoms associated with AFib are different for everybody.   The symptoms depend on the cause of the AFib (such as heart problems or other diseases), on how much AFib affects the pumping of the heart and age.   Symptoms include:

  • Pulse rate that is fast or changing between fast and slow
  • Heart palpitations (feeling like your heart pounds, flutters or races)
  • Pressure, pain, tightness, or chest discomfort
  • Increased urination
  • Lack of energy or over tired (most common)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble with everyday exercise or activities
  • Fainting, dizziness, or lightheadedness


Complications from Atrial Fibrillation
AFib alone is not usually life threatening.   However, if left untreated, Afib side effects potentially can be life threatening.   This is because it is harder for the heart to pump blood effectively, which causes blood to move slower and therefore more likely to form clots.   The clot could then be pumped out of the heart, and travel to the brain leading to a stroke. 15% of all strokes are caused by AFib induced clots.


AFib also can cause a fast pulse rate for extended periods of time.   If the ventricles beat too fast for extended periods of time, the heart muscle can become weak.   Called cardiomyopathy, this condition can lead to long-term disability and heart failure.  In order to prevent these complications, treatment for AFib usually includes medication to keep the pulse from going too fast and reduce the chance of blood clots and stroke.

afib tracing

Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation
Several tests can check for a fast or irregular heartbeat.   These tests may be ordered by your physician if you are having signs or symptoms of a AFib.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
    An ECG is a thirty second snapshot of the electrical activity of the heart.   Stickers (electrodes) are attached to your arms, legs and chest and measure your heart’s rhythm and rate.


  • Holter monitor
    A Holter monitor is a portable ECG device.   It is usually worn for 24 to 48 hours.  Stickers (electrodes) are placed on your chest and then connected to a small recording machine that is usually worn as a necklace around your neck or clipped to a belt clip around the waist.   It records your heart’s electrical activity for your doctor to review later.


  • Loop Recorder
    A loop recorder is worn for up to 30 days.  It records your heart’s beat when it is in abnormal rhythm.   It is also a patient activated recorder when they feel symptoms.   The results are sent over the phone to your doctor who will use this information to evaluate your symptoms to determine the cause of the abnormal rhythm.


  • Cardiac Event monitor
    A cardiac event monitor is a portable ECG that is used for patients who have a suspected occasional irregular heart rhythm.   The monitor is carried at all times and attached to your chest when you feel symptoms.



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