Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

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Heart and electrocardiogram, heart palpitations

Palpitations. This is the most common symptom of atrial fibrillation and occurs when patients notice a change in their heartbeat, normally an irregular rhythm. This sensation may disappear in a few minutes or hours, alternatively it could last longer. Patients may feel dizzy or even lose consciousness during episodes of atrial fibrillation, especially if their heart rate is very high or low. However, in most cases when people notice palpitations they are not due to atrial fibrillation.

Standing doctor pointing at a notepad with a clinical history

Non-definitive symptoms. Atrial fibrillation often causes some vague symptoms (tiredness, fatigue, and so on) due to a variety of reasons. On other occasions it does not produce any symptoms. In some cases, atrial fibrillation is only diagnosed by chance when the individual undergoes an electrocardiogram or has their pulse taken during a routine checkup.

Brain with an area signalled by cerebral infarction

Cardiovascular diseases. Sometimes previously undetected atrial fibrillation is only diagnosed after the patient suffers one of its associated complications (stroke or heart failure).

Clinical signs of Atrial Fibrillation

Wrist pulse

The most common sign is the observation of a totally irregular heartbeat with an abnormal rhythm. This heartbeat is usually identified relatively easily in the arterial pulse at the level of the wrist (radial pulse) or the neck (carotid pulse) or palpation of the heartbeat directly in the chest.

Substantiated information by:

Alba Cano Valls
Eduard Guasch Casany
Josep Lluís Mont Girbau
Manel Castellà Pericas

Published: 27 November 2018
Updated: 27 November 2018

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