Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common type of treated arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. While it is one of the most treated arrhythmias, it also is often under-diagnosed. That’s because AFib episodes are different for each person and can occur frequently or rarely. In severe cases, people can feel like they are having a heart attack, with chest pain and sweating. Some people experience rapid heartbeat that can last just a few seconds, while others describe it as a skipped heartbeat, followed by a thud. AFib can be so subtle that you don’t feel an irregular heartbeat but can experience dizziness, weakness, breathlessness and fatigue.  

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic deterred many people from going to their doctor’s offices or chose virtual visits instead. AFib can be detected by some at-home devices such as Apple Watches or Kardia monitors, however confirming the diagnosis requires rhythm monitoring with either an EKG or continuous monitoring device such as Holter monitor or Zio patch. In addition, AFib symptoms can present similarly as a panic attack or anxiety, which can lead people to shrug off the symptoms – especially if they happen infrequently.

Common Symptoms of AFib

It is important to spot the signs of AFib so you don’t dismiss them if they occur. It never hurts to discuss these symptoms with your doctor even if they happen once.

Common symptoms of AFib include:
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Heartbeat that races, pounds or flutters
  • Heart palpitations
  • Quick or uneven pulse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy, faint or lightheaded
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain or pressure

Even if AFib just comes and goes it is very risky. Untreated or undiagnosed AFib can lead to blood clots, which can quickly turn into a stroke. In addition, AFib can weaken heart muscles, which can lead to heart failure. It’s better to get it checked out, get diagnosed and set out on a treatment course that can manage AFib. AFib can often be managed with medication. 

Those with these risk factors are more susceptible to an AFib diagnosis:
  • Older age
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Alcoholics or heavy drinking
  • Family history of AFib
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Lung Disease
  • Other heart conditions

It is important to consult your doctor if you suspect you may have AFib to get a proper evaluation of your health risks and devise a safe treatment plan. The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center offers a full spectrum of treatment options from medication management to catheter and surgical intervention. Its team of experts is actively involved in clinical trials, testing new medications and technologies to ensure patients are receiving personalized, state-of-the-art care best suited for their individual need. Learn more about AFib or find a cardiologist.