Risks and Symptoms
Many people don't realize they have atrial fibrillation (AFib) because they either ignore the symptoms or don't notice they have symptoms. Other patients notice a difference as soon as it occurs. Symptoms can be different for each person, depending on age, the cause of AFib, and how much it affects the pumping efficiency of the heart muscle.
The most common symptoms patients may experience include:
- Irregular or rapid pulse
- Shortness of breath
- Racing or pounding heart, or fluttering in the chest
- Difficulty performing everyday activities
- Pain, pressure or tightness in the chest
- Lightheadedness -- dizziness or feeling like you could pass out
Several tests may be performed to help diagnose whether you have AFib as well as what type of AFib you have. Some of these tests may include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): Measures the rate and rhythm of your heart and provides a "snapshot" of your heart's electrical activity.
- Holter monitor: A portable ECG which includes a small recording machine worn around the waist; electrical activity of the heart is recorded for your doctor to review later.
- Mobile cardiac monitoring: Worn for longer periods up to 30 days, records your heart's activity when in normal and abnormal rhythm. The results are automatically sent to the doctor who uses the information to evaluate symptoms to determine the cause of the abnormal rhythm.
- Event monitor: Portable ECG used for patients who have an occasional irregular heart rhythm; monitor is carried at all times and attached to the chest only when symptoms occur to record the heart rhythm at the time symptoms are experienced.
- Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE): A non-invasive echocardiogram; an imaging device records the waves bouncing off the walls and valves of the heart. A computer creates a video of the heart to allow your doctor to see how efficiently your heart is pumping blood, and if there are any blood clots in the heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): Operates similar to a TTE and is often performed to determine what is happening at the back of the heart. A probe is inserted into the mouth and down the esophagus to provide a rear view of the heart.
- Cardiac computerized tomography (CT): 3D X-ray of heart and chest
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Radio waves, magnets and a computer create detailed pictures and video of the heart as it is beating.
Are you at risk for AFib?
If you are able to answer YES to two or more of the following questions, you may be at risk for developing atrial fibrillation (AFib).
- Are you over the age of 60?
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Are you considered moderately or significantly overweight?
- Do you consume two or more alcoholic drinks per day?
- Do you have or have you been told you may have sleep apnea?
- Have you been diagnosed with diabetes?
- Has any immediate family member (sibling or parent) been diagnosed with AFib?
- Have you ever had a stroke, heart disease or open heart surgery?
- Did you ever feel your heart beating irregularly or "flip-flopping" in your chest?
- Have you been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid?
Patients with AFib often also have high rates of other serious health conditions, including:
- High blood pressure (66%)
- High cholesterol (42%)
- Heart failure (26%)
- Coronary artery disease (66%)
If you are at risk for AFib — a serious, but treatable condition — delaying treatment can reduce your possible treatment options. If you have been experiencing symptoms or have already been diagnosed with AFib, you can find out more about the Summa Cardiovascular Institute's Atrial Fibrillation Program at Summa Akron City Hospital.
To schedule an appointment, call (888) 496-7168 or complete the appointment form on the right. To learn more about Summa's AFib Program, download your free A Patient's Guide to AFib Treatment.