Wondering if I've had Afib longer than I thought?

I was diagnosed as having persistent afib a couple of months ago, but I think it's been persistent for about at least six months.

I have noticed an irregular heart beat, which would pass, several times over the past few years. When I mentioned this to my GP he put it down to my anxiety (suffered from for about 11 years) but it was never irregular when he checked.

Before that though, I used to have bouts of what I thought were panic attacks. They wouldn't come very often, once every few months or so, but my heart would just start beating fast and hard - it felt like it was trying to beat it's way out of my chest and was actually visible to anyone who looked at my chest at the time! Again I told my GP about these episodes, but because he never actually observed one, coupled with my anxiety, I don't think I was taken seriously!

Do these episodes sound like they could be afib related?

Just to add, I haven't had an episode of the later now for almost four years.

9 Replies

  • I am quite sure that I had AF for a considerable time before it was diagnosed. I have never had palpitations and I do not have a rate problem. My EP thought that I was fibrillating more than I realised and a 7 day ECG monitor proved that he was correct. It recorded a 36hr episode that did not tally with my diary record.

    I think it's likely that slight fibrillation can leave you feeling rotten without an awareness of the cause whereas more forceful fibrillation is apparent and floors you completely.

  • GPs are really bad at picking up AF. I spent ten years being treated for stomach problems I didn't have before moving house and GP to one who's mother had AF and actually knew what it was. Things are supposed to be getting better especially amongst the younger GPs but some of the old school still think it is not important. Ladies especially get fobbed off with "oh its your age/ change/ panic attacks/ stroke anything else patronising. " I am quite sure that you have had AF for years like many of us before diagnosis. Just make sure that your stroke risk has been assessed and you are on anticoagulation where required and that you read up all the fact sheets available from the main AFA website and then start looking to get some proper treatment.

    Sorry this sort of thing makes me so angry!


  • I was hospitalised with what I now realise was an a/f episode, seven years before I was finally diagnosed. Because the symptoms had disappeared by the time I got to see anyone and didn't recur in the 48 hours I was there, I was discharged with no diagnosis. Every time it happened again I just ignored it as I had been told they couldn't find a problem. Turns out I was mostly asymptomatic anyway and was only diagnosed when visiting my gp with a nasty chest infection and he was more concerned about my pulse rate of 150. I do think that medics are also now more aware of the condition, but do be aware that you may not always have obvious symptoms. Good news is I am now a/f free following an ablation at the end of 2013. Good luck with your a/f journey. Anne

  • Your GP sounds like quite a few I've had over the years. Where I am now, I have been unable to find one at all, but where I was previously they were much more "with it". One suggestion is to change your GP and try and find one that understands and doesn't treat you like an idiot, or, if and when you need to, simply ask for a referral to a heart rhythm specialist who will do tests and decide whether or not you have a problem.

    PS. I was diagnosed 10 years ago and now realise I had an arrhythmia for probably 20 years in all.



  • I called 999 for an ambulance because of terrible sensations in my chest. By the time it arrived it had stopped. A F was never mentioned, I was diagnosed this year after a trip to A&E. I think it's been going on for nearly 20 years!!!

  • I think I probably had paroxymal AF for several years before it became persistent. It was only diagnosed because I passed out a few times (syncope). The A&E consultant admitted they didn't know why I passed out but initiated treatment for AF and it's remained persistent since then.

    Looking back over several years, I can identify several times where I think I probably had periods of AF: where I felt really rough but put it down to other causes (not enough sleep, not enough to eat, etc.) but I didn't really associate it with my heart - but then I don't get the racing heart that many get with AF.

    So, yes, I think we can easily have AF without knowing about it or even realising there is actually anything wrong.

  • I had AFIB for years before I was diagnosed in 1992 when admitted to hospital with double pneumonia. my OLD GP told me not to worry about it and would not treat it!

    Be Well

  • Same here. Eventually I was 'lucky' as a paramedic caught a prolonged episode on his ecg. I hadn't heard of AF until that point despite having 'palpitations' for years and having numerous investigations during that time.

    It would have helped if my GPs(a large practice) had an ECG machine as I probably would have had a diagnosis years ago..

    It's incredible that all GP practices don't have to have an ECG machine.

    The 'beating it's way out of your chest' as you describe Joebob, is exactly my experience when my PAF was caught by the paramedic.


  • First episode 10 years ago but thing I've had it progressing over those 10 years and a long bout of illness kicked it off again!

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