An array of symptoms can suggest the presence of the common heart irregularity Atrial Fibrillation.
While it affects millions of people worldwide, it is also widely acknowledged that Atrial Fibrillation (AF) can be a condition that is relatively difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can be intermittent.
Traditionally, AF is diagnosed by a physician checking the patient’s pulse, but continuous monitoring through smart devices is also proving an increasingly effective way of supporting diagnosis of the condition.
In addition, there are a number of signs that people should be aware of that may suggest AF and if these symptoms persist, they should seek medical advice from their physician.
Often, people with AF – which is the most common supraventricular arrhythmia – show no symptoms at all, particularly older people with AF.
But those who do have symptoms may experience various sensations and one of the most frequent is chest palpitations, which are a fast fluttering, or pounding, heartbeat.
Palpitations are often described as the sensation of feeling your own heart beating.
In some people, that may see the heart beating irregularly for a few seconds, or possibly a few minutes. As well as the irregular heartbeat, the heart may also beat very fast, and often at often considerably higher than 100 beats a minute.
Ectopic beats are early, premature, or extra heartbeats which can also cause palpitations. They are usually harmless and generally do not require treatment, unless they happen often.
In many cases, the irregularity in the heart rhythm that suggests AF is present is only discovered during routine tests, or investigations when a patient attends a GP surgery or clinic for another condition.
But there are other, more significant, symptoms of AF that will require people to seek medical intervention if they persist.
These may include chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, light-headedness, feeling lethargic, a reduced ability to exercise, weakness, and a shortness of breath.
Additionally, there are different types of AF: Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, where the symptoms can come and go; Persistent AF, where the heart rhythm does not return to normal without treatment; Long-standing persistent AF, lasting more than 12 months; and Permanent AF where medication is needed.
While it is difficult to diagnose AF, remote monitoring devices that can measure a patient’s heartbeat, around the clock if necessary, are playing a greater role.
One example is the CART-I ring cardio tracker from Sky Labs, which has been shown to help in the detection of AF.
As the world’s first ring-type smart wearable heart rhythm monitoring medical device, it provides photoplethysmography (PPG) signals to continuously measure heart rate from screening the bloodstream 24/7 through the user’s finger to measure irregular pulse waves.
Atrial fibrillation remains a serious condition and if undetected and untreated, it can lead to complications such as heart failure, tachycardia-induced cardiomyopathy, and an increased risk of stroke, but early detection is important and can lead to improved management of the condition.