What is Atrial Fibrillation: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment ? – A-Z Disease

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Definition

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition where the heartbeat is irregular and often fast. This condition can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and complications related to other heart diseases.

Normally, your heart will beat about 60-100 times per minute while you are resting. But in atrial fibrillation, your heart rate is irregular and sometimes it can even be very fast. In some cases, the heart rate of someone who has atrial fibrillation can be more than 100 times per minute.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition that can disappear or may not disappear. Although usually not life threatening, atrial fibrillation is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment to prevent severe complications.

If you don't get proper treatment, atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots that make blood flow blocked.

How common is this condition?

Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia. This disease can occur in both men and women and the risk tends to increase with age. This disease is more common in people over 50 years.

Signs & Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

AF usually causes the lower heart chambers and ventricles to pump blood faster than normal.

When AF occurs, the ventricles cannot fill blood properly, so the heart cannot pump enough blood to the lungs and body. Well, that brings up signs and symptoms such as:

  • Palpitations (feeling like the heart stops beating, palpitations, or beats too loud or fast)
  • Hard to breathe
  • Weak or sports problems
  • Chest pain
  • Dizzy or fainting
  • Limp (feeling tired)
  • Confused

Quoted from Mayo Clinic, the types of AF are:

  • Once in a while. In this case called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. You may experience symptoms that come and go, usually lasting for several minutes to hours. These symptoms may disappear or you may need treatment.
  • Stay. With this type of atrial fibrillation, your heart rhythm does not return to normal by itself. If you have this AF, an electric shock or medication is the treatment you need.
  • Stay long. This type of atrial fibrillation continues and lasts longer than 12 months.
  • Permanent. This type of AF is a condition where abnormal heart rhythms cannot be recovered. You will experience permanent atrial fibrillation and you will need medicines to control your heart rate and prevent blood clots.

There may be signs and symptoms not mentioned above. If you have a concern about a particular symptom, consult your doctor.

When should I see a doctor?

You should contact a doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Symptoms and signs of persistent or worsening of atrial fibrillation
  • Chest pain
  • If you suspect you have a stroke

If you have any of the above signs or symptoms or other questions, consult your doctor. Each person's body is different. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

Cause

What causes atrial fibrillation?

AF is a disturbance in the heart's electrical signals. Your heart consists of 4 chambers, namely the two upper heart chambers (atria) and 2 lower heart chambers (ventricles).

Normally, electrical signals start from pacemaker, which is called by sine node. This pacemaker is located in the upper right heart chamber (right atrium). The electrical signal creates the heartbeat.

As the signal moves through the top of the heart, the atrium will contract and drain blood to the bottom of the heart. Then this electrical signal will move down to the bottom of the heart causing ventricular contractions and blood flow throughout the body.

In atrial fibrillation, the signal is disturbed and the heart cannot pump blood properly. This causes the heart rate to increase, to 100-175 times per minute. Even though your normal heart rate is 60-100 times per minute.

Damage or changes in the structure of the heart can cause atrial fibrillation. Other causes of AF are:

Atrial flutter

Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation, but the rhythm of your heart is more regular and less cluttered than the abnormal patterns in AF. Sometimes you may experience atrial flutter that develops into atrial fibrillation, or vice versa.

Like atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter is usually not life-threatening if treated properly.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for atrial fibrillation?

Some risk factors for AF are:

  • Age. As you get older, your risk of developing this disease will increase.
  • History of heart disease. People with heart disease, such as valvular heart disease, congenital heart disease, congenital heart failure, coronary heart disease, or a history of heart attack or heart surgery, increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
  • High blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, especially if it is not controlled by changes in lifestyle or medications, this can increase your risk of atrial fibrillation.
  • Other chronic conditions. People with certain chronic conditions such as thyroid problems, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or lung disease increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.

Medicines & Medications

The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor.

What are my treatment options for atrial fibrillation?

Some treatment options for AF are:

  • Improve normal heart rhythm. Also called rhythm control. Rhythm control makes the atrial and ventricular work together to pump blood efficiently throughout the body.
  • Your doctor can give anti-arrhythmia drugs. Such drugs include sotalol, amiodarone, and flecainide.
  • Treating other diseases that cause or increase the risk of AF such as hyperthyroidism.

What are the usual tests to diagnose this condition?

The doctor can see certain patterns on the electrocardiogram (ECG), which describes the electrical activity of the heart.

The doctor can check atrial movements with an echocardiogram (using ultrasound to examine the heart and take moving pictures in the video). If your atrial fibrillation disappears, your doctor will recommend the use of a portable heart record.

Treatment at home

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can be done to treat atrial fibrillation?

Some lifestyle and home remedies that can help you deal with atrial fibrillation

  • Eat foods that are nutritious for the heart and adopt a healthy diet low in fat and cholesterol.
  • Maintain ideal body weight.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Exercise as much as you can if you take the medicine properly and the symptoms don't appear again.
  • Take your medication as directed by your doctor.
  • Perform medical checks to the doctor regularly to monitor the progress of your condition.

If you have questions, consult your doctor for the best solution for your problem.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment

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