What is Afib or Atrial Fibrillation?

Afib or Atrial Fibrillation is the name of a pathological condition of the heart in which there is an increased and irregular heart rate resulting in poor flow of blood by the heart to various parts of the body. Afib or Atrial Fibrillation occurs when the upper two chambers of the heart which are the atria start beating irregularly and are not in sync with the ventricles or the lower chambers of the heart. The most common symptom of an Afib or Atrial Fibrillation is severe dyspnea at rest or with exertion. Afib or Atrial Fibrillation occurs episodically and come and go. In case if the symptoms persist then it is recommended to go to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Afib or Atrial Fibrillation in itself is not a life threatening condition but if not treated it may lead to complications which may be potentially serious. Afib or Atrial Fibrillation is normally treated with medications and other interventions to correct the electrical impulses sent out by the heart so that they are in sync.

What is Afib or Atrial Fibrillation?

What Causes Afib or Atrial Fibrillation?

Some of the causes of Afib or Atrial Fibrillation are:

  • Hypertension
  • Previous history of heart attack or myocardial infarction
  • A history of coronary artery disease
  • In cases an individual has an abnormal heart valve it may also cause Afib or Atrial Fibrillation
  • Certain congenital heart defects may also cause Afib or Atrial Fibrillation
  • Certain cases of Afib or Atrial Fibrillation have also been found to be caused due to metabolic imbalances or thyroid disorders
  • Substance abuse like tobacco, alcohol etc. may also cause Afib or Atrial Fibrillation
  • If an individual has a history of a heart surgery due to any reason then that individual may be at risk for Afib or Atrial Fibrillation.

What are the Risk Factors for Afib or Atrial Fibrillation?

Some of the risk factors for Afib or Atrial Fibrillation are:

Age: The risk for having Afib or Atrial Fibrillation increases with age.

Heart Disease: An individual with a history of a heart disease is at an increased risk for having Afib or Atrial Fibrillation.

Hypertension: Chronic uncontrolled hypertension with time may lead to Afib or Atrial Fibrillation

Chronic Medical Conditions: Individuals with chronic medical conditions like thyroid disorders, sleep apnea, or metabolic disorders are at an increased risk for having Afib or Atrial Fibrillation.

Alcohol Abuse: Chronic alcohol users are also at an increased risk for having Afib or Atrial Fibrillation

Obesity: Overweight individuals are predisposed to having Afib or Atrial Fibrillation

Family History: A family history of Afib or Atrial Fibrillation also plays an important role whether an individual is at an increased risk for having this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Afib or Atrial Fibrillation?

Some of the symptoms of Afib or Atrial Fibrillation are:

  • Palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Severe fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dyspnea at rest or with exertion
  • Frequent chest pains.

How is Afib or Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed?

Electrocardiogram: This test shows the heartbeat in the form of electrical impulses. This test can show whether there is any abnormality in the rhythm of the heart and whether the heart is functioning normally.

Holter Monitor: In this test, a portable ECG device is given to the patient to carry. This device records the heart's electrical activity throughout a period of 24 hours and can identify any defect in the rhythm and rate of the heart.

Event Recorder: This is also a portable ECG device which is implanted on the patient and it records the heart's electrical activity for a period of a week to a month and any abnormalities can be easily identified.

Echocardiogram: This test makes use of ultrasound waves to look at the functioning of the heart. This test can accurately identify any abnormality of the functioning of the heart.

Chest X-ray: This will give an image of the heart in order to identify any abnormalities of the heart and will clearly show cardiomyopathy.

How is Afib or Atrial Fibrillation Treated?

The treatment for Afib or Atrial Fibrillation depends on the frequency of the episodes and for how long has the patient been experiencing Afib or Atrial Fibrillation. Normally, the aim of the treatment is to bring the rate and rhythm of the heart back to normal which is normally done by way of medications. The treatment is also aimed at preventing blood clots which is a major risk in cases of Afib or Atrial Fibrillation.

Which treatment to be given to a particular patient depends on a variety of factors like whether the patient has a previous history of a cardiac problem, if the patient has certain allergies to certain medications or not. In some cases even a surgery may be required to correct the rhythm of the heart. If Afib or Atrial Fibrillation is caused due to some other medical conditions like a thyroid disorder or a metabolic imbalance then treating those conditions are enough to bring the rate of the heart back to normal and thus treating Afib or Atrial Fibrillation.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 2, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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