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What are symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

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Quick Answer

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include irregular pulse, heart palpitations, fatigue, weakness, chest pain, confusion, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting and lightheadedness, according to WebMD. However, some people experience few or no symptoms and only discover the problem when undergoing a routine physical exam. Atrial fibrillation prevents the heart's ventricles from filling with blood, making it difficult for the heart to pump enough blood to the lungs and the rest of the body.

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Full Answer

While some people may experience the symptoms of atrial fibrillation experience in its mildest form immediately, others may notice it develop over the course of several days, notes WebMD. Identifying these symptoms and seeking out evaluation by a medical professional as soon as possible is crucial.

Atrial fibrillation that lasts longer than seven days is known as persistent atrial fibrillation, according to WebMD. It is treatable with medication or cardioversion techniques. Similarly, atrial fibrillation that occurs suddenly and lasts for just a short while is known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Finally, atrial fibrillation that happens all of the time for a period of at least 1 year is classified as permanent atrial fibrillation. It is characterized by treatments that do not restore the heart's normal rhythm.

The ventricles are two of the chambers found in the heart. The other two chambers are called atria. When blood leaves the right atrium, it passes through the right ventricle. The right ventricle then pumps the blood to the lungs, according to MedlinePlus. In people with atrial fibrillation, the atria beat irregularly instead of moving blood into the ventricles. Experts from the American Heart Association say this condition increases the risk for stroke.

Preventing blood clots and restoring the heart's normal rhythm are the two goals of atrial fibrillation treatment, as per experts from the Mayo Clinic. Resetting the heart's rhythm is sometimes accomplished with a procedure called cardioversion. During electrical cardioversion, a health professional delivers an electrical shock to the heart. This temporarily stops the heart's electrical activity, but there is a chance the heart will resume its normal rhythm once it starts beating again. Medications may also be used to temporarily halt electrical activity and restore normal heart rhythm.

The most common cause of atrial fibrillation is damage to the structure of the heart or heart abnormalities, particularly high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart defects or heart attacks. Exposure to caffeine, medication, alcohol, tobacco or other stimulants may also result in the condition.

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