AFib vs SVT – What’s the Difference?

Problems relating to the heart can be a scary occurrence. After all, it’s one of the most important organs in the body.

Unfortunately, the heart isn’t invincible. Like any organ, it’s susceptible to breaking down. In this article, we’re going to talk about Afib vs SVT.

Anatomy of the Heart

The heart is composed of four chambers:

  • Right Ventricle
  • Right Atrium
  • Left Ventricle
  • Left Atrium

Blood always enters the atria first, then leaves through the ventricles.

The sinoatrial node is the “natural pacemaker of the heart”. It’s what controls heart rhythm without you having to think about it.

Generally, problems with the ventricles are more serious than problems with the atria. However, this isn’t always the case.

Bottom Line: The heart is composed of four chambers- the right/left ventricles and right/left atria. The sinoatrial node controls heart rate.

Afib vs SVT- What’s the Difference?

afib vs svtafib vs svt

Here’s the short answer: Afib stands for irregular heartbeat while SVT stands for rapid heartrate.

Despite what you might think, they’re very different. For instance, a heart can beat quickly but not irregularly. Likewise, a heart can beat irregularly but not quickly.

There’s nothing saying that both conditions must go together. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.

That’s the short answer regarding Afib vs. SVT. Now let’s dive more in-depth.

Bottom Line: SVT means that your heart is beating very quickly, while Afib means that it’s beating irregularly.

Which is More Dangerous?

A condition involving the ventricle is usually (not always) more dangerous than a condition involving the atrium.

The scary thing about SVTs is that they can become ventricular fibrillations, which are lift-threatening.

Regarding Afib vs. SVT, atrial fibrillations are serious, but they’re not medical emergencies.

However, an SVT could quickly become a medical emergency, so it’s arguably more serious. It’s best to seek medical help if you’re experiencing either one.

Bottom Line: In general (not always), problems involving the ventricles (like SVT) are more serious than problems involving the atria (like AFib).

What is Afib?

Afib stands for atrial fibrillation. It’s basically an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia.

It can lead to heart failure, stroke, and a variety of other problems. It’s estimated that nearly 3 million Americans suffer from this heart condition.

Here’s how patients describe it:

“It feels like my heart is skipping a beat hundreds of times per day. I can feel my heart beating against my chest wall- especially when I’m bending down. Sometimes it makes me feel lightheaded.”

Those are scary symptoms indeed! If you notice your heart “skipping beats”, then it may or may not be something serious.

How can you know for sure? The best way is to have a doctor use an electrocardiogram (ECG).

This device measures electrical activity in the heart. If there’s a problem with your heartbeat, they’ll see it.

Bottom Line: Atrial fibrillation happens whenever the heart is beating irregularly. It can increase heart failure and stroke risk.

What is SVT?

SVT stands for supraventricular tachycardia. This is when the heart beats very quickly (even when you’re sitting still).

For some people, it’s brought on by stress. But in others, it could be an early sign of heart failure.

With regards to this AFib vs SVT comparison, know that SVTs are arguably more dangerous.

Why? Because they can lead to ventricular fibrillation, which is a medical emergency.

Symptoms of SVT include a pulsating feeling in the chest, a pounding pulse, and dizziness.

Bottom Line: A supraventricular tachycardia is just a fancy way of saying “fast heartbeat”. Symptoms include dizziness and a pounding pulse.

Treatment Options

Now let’s talk about treatment options for Afib vs SVT. They include:

  • Atrial Fibrillation: Heart rate controlling medications are often used to treat Afib. The most popular choice among doctors are beta blockers. These drugs are designed to slow down the heart rate. Examples include metoprolol, atenolol, carvedilol, and bisoprolol.
  • Supraventricular Tachycardia: Like Afib, your doctor may give you beta blockers. Other possible medications include calcium channel blockers.

In rare cases, a procedure called a catheter ablation may be recommended by your doctor (it carries some risk).

Generally, invasive procedures are reserved only for severe cases. Most of the time, medicines are effective at slowing down and/or regulating heart rate.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential treatment options.

Bottom Line: Treatment options for both Afib and SVT include beta blockers (for slowing heart rate) and calcium channel blockers.

What Now?

Now that you understand Afib vs SVT more in-depth, be on the lookout for the symptoms.

If you notice your heart beating irregularly, then it’s likely Afib. If it’s beating quickly, then it’s likely SVT.

Medications are typically quite effective at treating heart rhythm disorders. These include beta blockers (atenolol, carvedilol, etc.) and calcium channel blockers.

If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, are passing out, or feeling dizzy, get to a hospital.

It’s possible for an SVT to escalate to a ventricular fibrillation, which is life-threatening.

Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

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