September 2, 2014
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Atrial Fibrillation


How do I know if I have atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (also known as AF or AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat or heart rhythm). Symptoms of AF can vary. You may experience symptoms or you may not. You may not even know you have AF; some people don't realize they do until they get a routine test done with their doctor. The same person can sometimes feel AF symptoms, but at other times not feel it at all.

Atrial fibrillation can occur once in a while, or it may be present continuously. Symptoms of AF include:

  • palpitations - the most common symptom, typically experienced as a rapid thumping in the chest
  • irregular and rapid heartbeat
  • chest pain, discomfort, or tightness
  • dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, especially with exertion or anxiety
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • becoming easily tired after exercising or being active
  • weakness

How often and the length of time these symptoms occur can vary, as well as how severe the symptoms are. Some people do not feel any symptoms at all and feel fine, while others have debilitating symptoms that severely affects their quality of life.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should see your doctor. To diagnose what condition you may have, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, your family history, your symptoms, any other medical conditions you have, and any risk factors you may have. Your doctor may also perform some tests, such as measuring the electrical activity of your heart.

Although atrial fibrillation increases your risk for stroke, heart failure, and being hospitalized, the good news is that there are many ways to effectively manage atrial fibrillation. Your doctor can discuss atrial fibrillation with you and address any concerns you may have. If you have questions about atrial fibrillation or want to know if you are at risk for atrial fibrillation, talk to your doctor.

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