Symptoms, Diagnosis and Monitoring of Arrhythmia

doctor listening to patient's heart

Arrhythmias should be evaluated thoroughly by your doctor, who may ask about various symptoms and your medical history.

Many different symptoms

Arrhythmias can produce a broad range of symptoms and results. Your experience with arrhythmia may also differ depending on the type. For instance, a single premature beat may be felt as a “palpitation” or a “skipped beat.” Premature beats that occur often or in rapid succession may increase awareness of heart palpitations or a “fluttering” sensation in the chest or neck.

That same “fluttering” or “quivering” is associated with atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF), which is a particular type of arrhythmia.

View an animation of arrhythmia.

When arrhythmias (including AFib) last long enough to affect how well the heart works, more serious symptoms may develop:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting or near-fainting spells
  • Rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • In extreme cases, collapse and sudden cardiac arrest 

Important note: If you have chest pain or pressure, you may be having a heart attack. Call 911 immediately.

How do heart attack symptoms differ?

Fluttering and heart palpitations are telltale signs of arrhythmia, including AFib. Other serious heart problems, such as heart attack, have similar warning signs.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. This denies oxygen to the heart muscle — possibly damaging or destroying organ tissue.

The symptoms for heart attack can vary widely, just like symptoms for arrhythmia.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Other symptoms can include:

  • Chest discomfort or pressure that may come and go
  • Discomfort in the upper body, including both arms, the back, stomach, neck and jaw
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

Symptoms of heart attack in women can be even subtler. Often, those affected by heart attack — men and women alike — aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.

If you think you may be having a heart attack, don’t delay. Get emergency help by calling 911 immediately. 

Arrhythmia and stroke symptoms

People with AFib are five times more likely to suffer stroke than those without AFib. So it’s vital to be familiar with stroke symptoms.

Call 911 immediately if you notice one or more of these symptoms, even if the symptoms are temporary or seem to disappear. 

Do you suspect that you or a loved one may have arrhythmia? See your doctor. Several tests can diagnose and monitor arrhythmia.