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Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. It may happen occasionally with symptoms that come and go, last for a few minutes to hours, and then stop on its own. With chronic atrial fibrillation, the arrhythmia is always present.
Atrial fibrillation is more common as adults get older. While many cases have no symptoms, occasionally there may be heart palpitations, irregular pulse, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, confusion, light-headedness or fainting.
Although not as common, teens can also have symptoms of atrial fibrillation. It can be a single, isolated event or a sign of an underlying condition if repeated episodes follow. Pediatric patients are almost always symptomatic with palpitations prior to a serious event such as cardiac arrest. A single event for an otherwise healthy heart can be triggered by drug or alcohol use, or even exercise.
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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Explore atrial fibrillation. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/af. Accessed March 5, 2015.
National Stroke Association. Act FAST. http://support.stroke.org/acute_site/having-stroke/. Accessed April 8, 2015.
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StopAFib.org. New analysis illustrates the hidden burden of atrial fibrillation on healthcare spending and resources in each state. March 22, 2011. http://www.stopafib.org/newsitem.cfm/NEWSID/325/AF%20Stat%20afib%20in%20America/atrial%20fibrillation%20state%20impact%20reports. Accessed March 4, 2015.
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atrial fibrillation fact sheet. http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.kphanet.org/resource/resmgr/KnowYourPharmacistResources/Fact_Sheet_atrial_fibrillati.pdf. Accessed March 4, 2015.