Atrial fibrillation is a very common abnormal heart rhythm.
The normal heart has four chambers and they work in a steady, rhythmic pattern. In Atrial fibrillation, the atria (upper chambers of the heart) fibrillate (quiver or twitch out of control) and create an irregular rhythm.
In this condition, extremely disorderly electrical impulses originate in the upper heart chambers which are called the atria. This leads to weak and uncoordinated movements in the atria which then cascade to the AV node, causing an irregular and fast rhythm of the ventricles.
Atrial Fibrillation puts you at risk for strokes and heart related conditions.
Atrial Fibrillation is not life-threatening and some people may experience only occasional episodes. When these episodes begin to occur more frequently, there is cause for concern and prompt medical attention.
Many cases of Atrial Fibrillation are symptom-less and might surface only during a medical examination. However, the more noticeable symptoms include the following:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath
People with existing heart conditions are already at a risk for Atrial Fibrillation. Other factors that may cause this condition are as follows:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Congenital heart defects
- Coronary artery disease
- Abnormal heart valves
- Sleep apnea
- Viral infections
- Disease-related stress
- Lung diseases
- Excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol or tobacco
- Sick sinus syndrome
- Family history
You doctor may run the following tests on you to see whether or not you have Atrial Fibrillation and if so, to what degree.
- Blood test
- Chest X-ray
- Stress test
- Event recorder
- Holter monitor
After these tests have been run, further steps will be taken accordingly.
Treatment for atrial fibrillation is dependent on a number of factors such as how long you've had the condition, the degree of intensity of the condition and what exactly are the reasons one has the condition based on the aforementioned list of symptoms and risk factors.
There are basically two types of treatment of atrial fibrillation. These include - preventing blood clots and resetting the rhythm of the heart to control the heart rate. These treatments again depend on previous medical conditions (especially heart) that you may have. While managing your heart rate can be easily done through medication such as Dofetilide, Flecainide, Propafenone, Amiodarone and Sotalol, these may have side-effects of their own.
Resetting of the heartrate can also be done through Electrical Cardioversion in which an electric shock is administered on the chest.
In serious cases of Atrial Fibrillation, surgery may be necessary.