Estimates from the CDC show that between 2.7 million and 6.1 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib. This common heart arrhythmia causes an irregular heartbeat and is a leading cause of stroke. While some patients with AFib never notice any symptoms, it’s important to be aware of the signs so you can protect your heart and lower your risk of stroke. Remember, symptoms may differ between men and women. 

What the Most Common AFib Symptoms Feel Like

Irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations are among the most common AFib symptoms. If you’re experiencing this symptom, it can feel like a fluttering sensation, similar to butterflies in your chest or a flip-flopping feeling as if your heart is doing somersaults. In some cases, it could even feel like a pounding sensation. It may feel rapid, too, or it could even seem as if your heart skips a beat. It’s a sensation that may cause you some anxiety.

Other common symptoms include lightheadedness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. If you feel tired, confused, faint or find it difficult to breathe, then it’s definitely time to see a doctor.

Chest pain can also be a symptom of AFib. This can feel like uncomfortable pressure or tightness, or it could be a dull pain.

How Long Does AFib Last?

How long you’ll experience these symptoms depends on the type of atrial fibrillation. It can range between occasional bouts to a permanent condition.

  • With paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, you will experience symptoms only occasionally. Symptoms will come and go in spans that might last for up to a week before they disappear again.
  • Persistent AFib means you experience symptoms all the time. Heart rhythm doesn’t go back to normal and requires treatment in order to restore a normal rhythm.
  • Long-standing atrial fibrillation is similar to persistent AFib. With this type of AFib, the symptoms are ongoing—and they’ve been present for more than a year. Again, this is a type of fibrillation that requires treatment to restore normal heart function.
  • Permanent atrial fibrillation is the type in which a normal heart rhythm cannot be restored. If you have this type of AFib, your doctor will likely recommend medications and treatments for blood clot prevention and to help regulate your heart rate.

What are the Differences Between AFib in Men and Women?

Men and women are likely to have different symptoms of AFib. Women tend to feel more symptoms than men do. While a man might only feel one or two slight symptoms of AFib, a woman might experience the whole spectrum—from palpitations to dizziness, sweating, chest pain, and other symptoms.

It’s also important to note that women are much more likely to feel fear or to be anxious when symptoms do happen.

If you notice any of these symptoms of AFib, it’s time to talk to a doctor. Contact Heart Rhythm Consultants today to schedule an appointment. With offices in Sarasota, Venice, and Port Charlotte, we have a location convenient to you.