Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation – also known as AF or AFib – is a condition where your heart beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm (a cardiac arrhythmia).2

Many symptoms of AF overlap with signs of other conditions, like acid reflux or anxiety. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms given below, it is very important that you visit your doctor to receive an appropriate assessment and diagnosis. This will help your doctor determine which treatments, if any, are appropriate for your condition.1

Watch a short animation on the symptoms of AF

The most common symptoms of AF are caused by the irregular heartbeat

You might feel heart palpitations – where your heart feels like it is pounding, skipping a beat, racing, fluttering in your chest or weak with an erratic beat.1,3

You might also experience some other symptoms, like:1

  • Shortness of breath or breathlessness
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain – if you are having chest pain, please visit your doctor immediately as it may be a medical emergency
group
glass

tired

exhausted

glass

faint

dizzy

light-headed

glass

short of breath

chest pain

glass

unusual
heartbeats

pounding
racing
fluttering
skipping a beat
weak
erratic

glass

weakness

You may not experience any symptoms of AF

Many people with AF do not show any signs or symptoms of the condition – this is called asymptomatic AF. Because this type of AF is difficult to detect, your doctor may choose to check your pulse as part of a routine check-up. This is often recommended if you are over 65 years of age or if you have other health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or a history of heart disease.4,5

You may experience symptoms some, but not all, of the time

Some people with AF have intermittent episodes where their heart beats irregularly some, but not all, of the time – this is called paroxysmal AF. If you have this type of AF, you may require more than one visit to your doctor to get a diagnosis, as your heart will sometimes have a normal rhythm.2,5

Speak to your doctor about your symptoms

If you experience any of the symptoms described above, it is important to speak to your doctor about the possibility of AF. Although AF itself is not usually life-threatening, when left untreated it can increase your chance of having a stroke by 4 to 5 times. Your doctor can arrange an electrocardiogram (ECG), which will record your heart rate and rhythm – this will allow your doctor to make a formal diagnosis of AF. With a diagnosis, you and your doctor can then decide whether a treatment plan is appropriate for you.2

1. NHS. Symptoms – atrial fibrillation. April 2018. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms/. Last accessed November 2020.

2. Stroke Association. Atrial fibrillation. Available at https://www.stroke.org.uk/what-is-stroke/are-you-at-risk-of-stroke/atrial-fibrillation. Last accessed November 2020.

3. Healthline. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-palpitations. Last accessed November 2020.

4. NICE NG196. Atrial fibrillation: diagnosis and management. 2021. Available at https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng196/resources/atrial-fibrillation-diagnosis-and-management-pdf-66142085507269. Last accessed May 2021.

5. Mayo Clinic. Atrial fibrillation. June 2019. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms-causes/syc-20350624. Last accessed November 2020.

PP-ELI-HKG-0639 JUN 2021