Does your heart often feel like it’s beating out of your chest, it’s going so fast? Do you get weak, short of breath, or dizzy easily? Do you sometimes get a feeling of tightness, pressure, or pain in your chest?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might be dealing with an irregular heartbeat. Two common types, AFib and AFlutter, are easy to confuse with each other.
What is AFib, how is it different from AFlutter, and what could these conditions mean for your health? To find out, keep reading for a quick guide to AFib vs. AFlutter.
AFib vs. AFlutter: What’s the Difference?
Atrial Flutter (AFlutter) and Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) are similar conditions that result in an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Both involve the two smaller heart chambers called atria. They happen when the electrical signals that keep your heart beating come faster than normal, causing a rapid and/or irregular heartbeat.
The symptoms that both conditions have in common include:
- rapid heart rate and/or palpitations
- dizziness and/or fainting
- muscle weakness
- shortness of breath
- tightness or pain in the chest
If there are this many similarities, what are the differences when it comes to atrial flutter vs. atrial fibrillation?
In general, atrial flutter is a milder condition. Both atria get organized electrical impulses, though they’re more rapid than usual. This causes them to beat faster than the other two heart chambers (the ventricles), creating a specific “every-other” rhythm.
Doctors can recognize AFlutter because this every-other rhythm shows up as a “sawtooth” pattern on an EKG. A normal heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute, but someone with atrial flutter will have a heart rate of about 150 bpm.
Atrial Fibrillation is a related but more severe tachycardic arrhythmia. In AFib, not only do your atria receive faster signals, but they also get them in a disorganized way. This causes the atria to beat out of sync with the ventricles, often with different lengths of time between beats.
Because AFib rhythms vary, they don’t create a distinctive EKG pattern like AFlutter does. Someone with this condition will have a heart rate that ranges from 100-175 bpm.
How to Tell Whether You Have Atrial Flutter vs. AFib
Knowing if AFib is hereditary in your family can help you determine which condition you might be experiencing. Aside from a family history of either condition, there are a few other differentiating signs to watch for.
- sawtooth EKG pattern: only present in AFlutter
- irregular pulse rate: present in AFib but not AFlutter
- severe symptoms: more likely in AFib, you may not even notice you have AFlutter
- risk of stroke and blood clots: present in both conditions but much higher with AFib
AFib is far more common than AFlutter, though many of the causes for them are identical. You’re more likely to develop AFib or AFlutter after having a heart attack or other cardiovascular condition. They’re also more common in people with diabetes, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, or substance abuse disorders.
The only way to know for sure whether you have AFib vs. AFlutter is to see a doctor for a heart rhythm test.
Talk to Your Doctor About Your Symptoms Today
If you still have questions about AFib vs. AFlutter or you think you’re experiencing an irregular heartbeat, talk to your doctor today. There are many surgical and nonsurgical treatments available for arrhythmias. If you seek medical treatment, you can still live a long, healthy, normal life.
Would you like to learn more about other health conditions you should be aware of? If so, keep reading through the articles on our site.