View Full Version : What does A-Fib feel like??

01-31-2005, 05:43 PM
Hi All,

I'm hoping some folks here can share with me their personal experiences with a-fib. What does it feel like? What were your symptoms?

The reason i'm asking is that i've been having some problems lately that may be related to this... but am currently way too stubborn and fed-up with emergency rooms and doctors to go have it checked out until i am absolutely certain it is necessary. I haven't had anything like this since the myectomy, and i've been feeling so freakin good i guess i've been hoping that it was just some temporary 'thing' that would go away on it's own.

The symptoms started with the albuterol i was using, and include chest pain (left sided and arm), dizziness, numbness, chest fluttering, awareness of my heart beating very strongly, nervousness, insomnia, and fatigue. Specifically the fatigue is my worst issue, and i haven't experienced anything like this since the myectomy. I literally could not make it to class the other day, and this is nothing like the way i was feeling last semester.

Assuming that my obstruction didn't just suddenly re-appear overnight, could the albuterol have triggered an episode of a-fib? If so, shouldn't it have corrected itself on it's own by now?

Thanks much for any help you can give,


01-31-2005, 07:52 PM
Jim, sorry you're having more probs. If your pulse remains irregular, you could be in A-fib. The symptoms you describe can all go with the A-fib. Unfortunately, it may not resolve on it's own. With A-fib, the chance exists that the longer it persists, the more difficult it may be to resolve. So, if it is persisting, get it checked out. I do hope you find it's just short bursts of an irreg beat, let us know. Good luck, Linda

01-31-2005, 09:23 PM

When I have bouts of a-fib, I often liken it to popcorn going off in my chest. At times I can actually see my chest wall jumping up and down. I feel breathless (more so than usual), a bit light headed, tired and just plain yucky to use a non-medical term. I hope it all self-corrects, but don't wait too long. Peace,


02-01-2005, 12:03 PM
I'm hoping some folks here can share with me their personal experiences with a-fib. What does it feel like? What were your symptoms?

Ahhh. . . .a subject near (but not so dear) to my heart.

A-fib comes in different varieties. My experience may not match yours. I am in persistent- full-time- A-Fib now and this has become my normal heart beat. There is no pain that I recognize, but I become short of breath upon exertion. Since shortness of breath is also a symptom of HCM, I guess the a-fib is sort of a background issue with me at this point.

My whole “heart-health journey” began in 1995 when I was hospitalized with rapid A-Fib. At that time I was having episodes of what I would always describe as heart burn. In fact I was buying and taking antacid tablets which seemed to work sometimes, but not always. I had been using Tums for years, so this was something that was building up.

These early episodes would come and go and never lasted for more than 24 – 36 hours. These events would be rather uncomfortable – not really painful and remember that I found it difficult to breath normally – that is to say that my breathing would begin to mimick the irregular pace of my heart.

Five minutes on an EKG will tell you if you have it. A qualified nurse might be able to tell by simply feeling your pulse. My pulse is so faint at my wrist that it is just about impossible to tell.

02-01-2005, 12:09 PM
I've only had short bursts of what was described as possible a-flutter, which is virtually the same thing as a-fib. For me it was the fluttery feeling and sometimes I would have super strong heart beats that would make my whole chest move. I would feel like my heart was beating in my throat. That feeling of anxiousness or nervousness is all too familiar too. Please get some help.


02-01-2005, 04:26 PM
Hi Jim

A-fib to me is feeling my heart race. Sometimes it is strong, sometimes weak. I get very tired after an episode of this and lightheaded. When I have my ICD interogated, I always ask for a copy. There has been times when my heart was beating 286 per minute and would last for 10 minutes.

What is really weird is this usually happens while I'm sleeping, but there are times I'm awake.

If this is still persisting, I definately would go to the ER. It's nothing to fool around with.

Please keep in touch.

02-01-2005, 05:06 PM
take your pulse. it should be a steady, regular beat. if the time between beats changes more often than staying steady, well, that is probably afib.

the fatigue, chest, pain, etc. are also prime afib symptoms.

please see your doctor. afib can cause strokes and heart attacks.


02-01-2005, 08:02 PM
There has been times when my heart was beating 286 per minute and would last for 10 minutes.
One of the main reasons I am concerned about having an ICD implanted is the fact that I know my heart rate can get way up there. I have seen it approach 200 but never exceed it.

How does the device destinguish between A-Fib and V-Fib?? You were not zapped when it got to 286??

02-01-2005, 09:19 PM
I was told by cardiologists that I have episodes of A-fib. I never really knew what the symptoms are. I always feel like crap. I have lots of heart rhythm problems.

And whenever I would ask my last cardiologist a question about my symptoms and rhythms she would always say: " "Oh that's normal for your condition."

(That's why I have found a new cardiologist, but I think even he is dumbfounded.)

I have been on Verapamil now for 10 days and it has not helped my beats. But it has slowed my heart down, I still feel tired.

When I had my ICD interrogated, they had to turn down or shut down my atrial lead because it was double counting my beats, so all this time, they are not exactly sure what my heart has been doing.

My ICD was so screwed up that the technician had to call St Jude's headquarters and ask the top technician what to do and make sure she was doing everything correctly.

Jim, I have those symptoms you have described everyday.

I hope you feel better soon, please keep us posted.


02-03-2005, 09:38 AM
Jim, How are you doing? I'm hoping things have improved by now. Linda

02-03-2005, 09:45 AM

I seem to be missing you by just a few minutes when i sign into AIM, I guess school is keeping you hopping, i hope your chest has calmed down on you, be well my friend


02-03-2005, 12:12 PM
Hi All,

I finally broke down and went to see my PCP this morning about the chest pain, etc. This guy got me into an exam room in two minutes flat even though his waiting room was packed... did a thorough physical exam and ekg... then got on the horn with my local cardio for a consult while i waited. Wow! I feel so lucky to have such a great team to work with here. My PCP is extremely knowledgable about HCM and works so well with both my local cardio and the folks in Cleveland... it's amazing. Even though i'm so fed up with doctors and hospitals in general right now i could scream... i have to admit that i'm quite blessed.

Anyway, i digress...

The ekg didn't show any signs of a-fib but he's not ruling it out entirely. It records such a brief period in time, and my chest just wasn't fluttering this morning like it has been. Isn't that always the case? As soon as they hook up the equipment the ol' ticker tries to make a liar out of ya. LoL.

My murmur's back again loud and clear which is a little disconcerting i guess... but then again i had already suspected that my gradient is going back up since i can hear the thing pounding away in my head and feel it in my neck just like the good old days. Nobody's very concerned about it though... not yet anyway. This all coincides with the albuterol, being sick, the hernia, starting a new term at school, and a few other things as well... so it's quite possible my heart is just under stress right now and this is something temporary.

My cardio is getting me into his office on the 18th... i'll be having an echo and probably get a holter as well to try and record some of these events. In the meantime, they increased my beta-blocker and told me to deal with the symptoms as best i can. I can do my treadmill at the gym and keep up my regular activities... but nothing like last semester. No more going without sleep, all-night sessions at school, and eating crappy food out of vending machines. I may well have overdone things a bit there. And of course i got the usual 'you're still just seven months out of surgery' blah, blah, blah.

Thanks for all your great info and advice. I sure do appreciate it. :)


02-03-2005, 12:59 PM
I'm glad you have such a great team to take care of you. Take care of yourself and please keep us posted!


Pam Alexson
02-03-2005, 01:14 PM
Boy the rocky road of HCM Huh. Take care and do slow down . Keep us posted Jim..
My Best.


02-03-2005, 01:56 PM

Please take care of yourself and slow down, i know i sound like a broken record Please Jim take care of yourself


02-03-2005, 02:26 PM
My first a-fib came from a slurply. I had a brain freeze, tensed up my mussle, and went into a-fibs. Luckly the ER doctor had heard of IHSS in the military. So I got some Labatanol and was fine after that. The second one, but alot less intese, came from tooooo much caffine. I had about 6 or 7 Mountain Dews that week and my heart gave in. So most of my tiny, wierd heart beats come from different foods I eat, the activity I was doing, or not taking my med on time. I do notice that when ever I eat pepperoni pizza, my heart beats wierd for a little while. So I don't drink much caffine anymore. Just a glass of tea or coke of some sort occationally. Maybe this helpped out some.

02-03-2005, 06:57 PM
I'm glad you were checked out and am so happy to hear you have a great team of doctors! ahh....afib....my arch enemy...I get an episode approx. every 6 weeks and lasts 12 hrs. I can feel it kick into high gear. I seem to get it when I go to bed. It feels like jello and can feel the irregular beats...I get short of breath, nothing else. The day after, I feel tired and try to get more rest...hope things improve....take care :wink:


02-05-2005, 03:30 PM
Hello everyone,

Cynthia and Baw578... thanks for adding your input also. Any and all info is gratefully welcome and appreciated. :)

Well, i started taking the additional beta blocker and last night i passed out in my kitchen. LoL. We might need to re-think our strategy here. It was actually quite funny as passing out goes. I could see it coming from a mile away... you know, that cross-eyed feeling, a little nausea, the ol tingling in the brain, and that sudden feeling that all your blood just left your body. Eeeek. Problem was, as hard as i tried i just couldn't get back to the couch to lie down. Everytime i tried to move i kept going in a little circle, like i was listing to the left or something. So... down i went. Glad i wasn't holding any knives!

Oh the continuing joys of HCM. How i do love it so.

Thanks for all the help,


02-05-2005, 03:44 PM
OMG!! You are having so many problems again. Have you called your doctor?
I wish there was something I could say to help. I know how depressed I get when things go wrong or I am going down hill.

I know this is easier said than done, but try and think positive. You certainly have a lot of supportive and caring people here.

Maybe you should start using plastic utinsels. j/k

Keep in touch.

02-05-2005, 04:28 PM

Thanks for the nice response!

No need to worry, i'm not letting anything get me down just yet. I've been feeling way too good for too long now, to suddenly think that things are going wrong again. I'm almost certain that this has all been precipitated by a specific event, such as some poorly prescribed meds at the ER, or possibly i've got a touch of the flu or some other illness. I've totally lost my appetite this weekend, which is highly unusual for me. LoL. So perhaps i've just got some bug that's making my heart a bit unhappy. Just a temporary setback!

Hope you are well yourself, and enjoying your weekend. 8-)


02-06-2005, 04:48 PM

Esther: I've always tried to use plastic utensils and dinnerware whenever possible. I just can't be trusted with sharp or breakable objects! No more Ginsu knives for me. :shock:


02-06-2005, 07:26 PM
Hi Jim
I'm glad to hear you are handling your temporary setback with ease. I would be so confused and angry. Angry because I had been feeling so well, then BOOM, it hits you like a hammer. But then I would look at how well I was and try and focus on that. And I would think about people that are more ill than myself.

If I go to the HCMA conference in June, I'll be sure to bring you an ample supply of plastic utensils. I wouldn't want to hear that you are out and using the REAL thing....lol

Take care and keep your chin up :D

02-07-2005, 03:52 PM

I know I'm "late" jumping into this topic (I've been on vacation-yea!), but I want to add my 2 cents. I began having episodes of AFib, last Fall (14 months after my Myectomy)-the symptoms you describe are exactly what I experience. I was Lucky (if you can call this "Lucky") to be in AFib-call my Cardio & have him see me & confirm (with an EKG), that I was in AFib. My episodes last from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Sometimes the pain is unbearable & sometimes not so bad. Sometimes it wakes me up, sometimes I just feel a pulsting in my neck (caratoid area). I usually sweat & feel dizzy. A heart rate over 120 BPM qualifies as AFib (among other things) My BPM (beats per minute) are usually around 200, when in AFib.
Proper treatment is VITAL, because you can throw clots, while in AFib & the HOLCOM (how 1 doc refered to my myectomy) does NOT tolerate AFib well.
I was initially treated with an increased doseage of Toprol, Amioderone & Coumadin. I could not tolerate the Amio, so I've discontinued that. I had to decrease my Toprol back down to 200mg (when my heart rate dropped to 40), but still take Coumadin.
If you can get into your Cardio's office during an episode, it would certainly be beneficial & easier than the ER. By the time the ER does the EKG, you could be back in Sinus Rythm!
Hope this gives you some ideas-but do have this treaTED.
be well

02-07-2005, 04:08 PM
Jim and others,

Ah! How enlightning to read about this **** complication called A-fib: i share the same episodes with you and thank G*d that i'm lucky enough to escape from it with just 20mg betablocker on the fly... I feel really sorry for you being so long in a miserable state.

As far as possible causes are concerned, certainly caffeine is one of them (say, every drop beyond 11.00 am). Also, dairy products can get me into A-fib faster than a McD* employee can prepare a milkshake. To much stress adds up to the whole thing.

I got my last A-fib episode recorded on ECG, and it showed a heart rate above 170! And i felt already better then before, so i guess i must have been around 200.

Of all HCM symptoms, this is the one that makes me most miserable. So Jim and others, i hope you'll be able to resolve it soon.

BTW, has anybody ever had a cardioversion (arrythmia treatment with a defibrillator)?


02-07-2005, 09:59 PM
Several people here have been cardioverted. I hope some of them will get back with you soon.


Pam Alexson
02-08-2005, 07:35 AM
Hi Ad,

I have been cardioverted with an external defibrilator and with my own AICD.


02-08-2005, 07:42 AM

Did you get the AICD to resolve A-fib? Or to prevent VT or VF?


Pam Alexson
02-08-2005, 08:02 AM
I got the AICD to help prevent sudden death. They were able to induce V-fib during a heart cath quite easily by touching the walls of my ventricle with the catheter. They said the space in the ventricle was extremely tight and the ventricle very stiff. The risk was deemed high and warranting the implant. Ialso have 2 cousins who died young of SCD ( cardiomyopathy) I have had no VT since the implant in 2001 and only A-fib related to complication following myectomy in 2003. I was placed on amiodorone for 4 months and then taken off. Knock on wood, no more a-fib. They were able to use my devise to convert me out of a-fib( under sedation of course) and the external have been used a lot more when I have had my devise checked or during the surgigal experience. It is always done under sedation.

Hope this helps.



02-08-2005, 05:11 PM
I was cardioverted once a year ago...it was no big deal...they gave me something to relax me and you're put under anesthesia briefly...the next thing I knew I was awake and my heart was beating normally!

02-14-2005, 01:24 PM
Haven't been on the board for a while, but until my ICD was put in back in October (Boston), I was in chronic a-fib. I always described it to my friends as a heart rate like having jazz rhythm, and they always knew what I meant. I've been in sinus rhythm since some time in November. LOL went in for a cardioversion in early December--- didn't need it! As it turns out, last week I was back in a-fib a couple of times, once for 5 hours. Don't know if it was too much food, too much salt, the flu, or lack of sleep or what. But luckily I had a checkup already scheduled in Boston on Friday, and everything by then was back to normal. Its the Norpace that is keeping me in regular rhythm, I think.

02-14-2005, 01:25 PM
Haven't been on the board for a while, but until my ICD was put in back in October (Boston), I was in chronic a-fib. I always described it to my friends as a heart rate like having jazz rhythm, and they always knew what I meant. I've been in sinus rhythm since some time in November. LOL went in for a cardioversion in early December--- didn't need it! As it turns out, last week I was back in a-fib a couple of times, once for 5 hours. Don't know if it was too much food, too much salt, the flu, or lack of sleep or what. But luckily I had a checkup already scheduled in Boston on Friday, and everything by then was back to normal. Its the Norpace that is keeping me in regular rhythm, I think.

02-14-2005, 01:31 PM
Let's hope that regular rhythm continues - Linda

02-14-2005, 01:37 PM
Dana - How long have you been on Norpace? How much do you take, and do you take it to reduce a gradient?

Do you have any side effects from it?

I am going to be starting it as soon as this week, and am trying to collect info. on it. Any advice would be appreciated.