A heart in atrial fibrillation doesn't beat efficiently. It may not be able to pump enough blood out to your body with each heartbeat.

Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it's discovered during a physical examination. Those who do have atrial fibrillation symptoms may experience:

  • Palpitations, which are sensations of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat or a flopping in your chest
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Atrial fibrillation may be:

  • Occasional. In this case it's called paroxysmal (par-ok-SIZ-mul) atrial fibrillation. You may have symptoms that come and go, lasting for a few minutes to hours and then stopping on their own.
  • Chronic. With chronic atrial fibrillation, your heart rhythm is always abnormal.

When to see a doctor

If you have any symptoms of atrial fibrillation, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor should be able to tell you if your symptoms are caused by atrial fibrillation or another heart arrhythmia.

If you have chest pain, seek emergency medical assistance immediately. Chest pain could signal that you're having a heart attack.

Feb. 08, 2013