Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Symptoms:
What Does AFib Feel Like?

  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations or rapid thumping in your chest
  • Chest pain or pressure, dizziness, or sweating
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue or tiring easily during exertion

If you experience any of these symptoms, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Asymptomatic or silent AFib: Can you have AFib with no symptoms?

It’s important to note that it is common for people with AFib not to experience any noticeable symptoms at all. This is known as silent, or asymptomatic, AFib. In this case, AFib is often diagnosed during other routine exams, which can come as a shock—especially for people who do not have a history of health issues. But by learning more about AFib symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, you can feel more confident about managing your stroke risk and overall health going forward.

He'd always been tired, he always had difficulty with activity and there was never an explanation for that.

Hear how an AFib diagnosis helped it all make sense.

How is AFib diagnosed?

Tests used for AFib diagnosis

Whether you felt intense symptoms that prompted an emergency room visit or simply felt off and mentioned it to your primary care physician during a regular appointment, AFib will usually be diagnosed by monitoring your heart. Your healthcare professional may order an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which is a sample of your heart’s electrical activity. If you are not currently having an AFib episode when you see your healthcare professional, he or she may send you home wearing a Holter monitor, which records your heart’s electrical activity over 24–48 hours.

AFib & heart monitors

Advances in technology have made it possible to continuously monitor the heart for even longer periods of time, anywhere from one week to one month or longer. For example, tiny monitors implanted under your skin can wirelessly communicate long-term, 24/7 data to your healthcare professional. Other examples include small sensors that can be worn under the clothing for up to a week. Smart devices like watches and phones are also increasingly being used to assist healthcare professionals in the diagnosis of AFib.

In addition to monitoring, your healthcare professional may ask you to keep a journal of your activities during this time in order to see whether they correspond with any irregularities.

Other AFib tests & diagnosis methods

Finally, other tests may be done to look for physical problems with your heart or to detect blood clots that may be forming in the atria. These tests may include:

  • Stress tests
  • Echocardiography
  • Transesophageal echocardiography
  • Chest X-rays
  • Blood tests

Typically, specialists with extra training will be the ones actually giving these tests, and the results will be interpreted by a heart doctor (cardiologist).

What are common AFib triggers?

Though you won’t always be able to tell when you’re going to have an AFib episode, it helps to be aware of common AFib triggers so you can avoid them, if necessary.

  • Excessive alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Too little sleep, poor sleep, or sleep apnea
  • Stress or anxiety

If I’m in active AFib, how long does it take for a blood clot to
form and cause a stroke?

Some doctors think a clot can form inside your heart in as little as 5½ hours after the start of an active AFib episode. It’s important to fill your prescription for a blood thinner like XARELTO® as soon as possible. You should take your medication as prescribed by your healthcare professional to help keep yourself protected from the risk of stroke.