A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.
By Shannon Pierce
Atrial fibrillation, also known as “A-fib” is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. It is the most common serious abnormal heart rhythm. It tends to start as brief periods of abnormal beating which may become longer and possibly consistent and constant over time. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two upper chambers, beat erratically and irregularly. The upper chambers do not coordinate with the lower two chambers of the heart, causing the disease. Atrial fibrillation may increase the risk of heart failure, dementia, and stroke.
Although many episodes do not have symptoms, some people may experience heart
palpitations, fainting, shortness of breath, or chest pain. The episodes can come and go, but atrial fibrillation that doesn't go away requires treatment. Atrial fibrillation alone is not usually life-threatening, but it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment. Atrial fibrillation can lead to complications such as blood clots.
Atrial fibrillation is typically caused by abnormalities or damage to the heart's structure. Causes of atrial fibrillation may include:
Doctors review signs and symptoms, medical history, and conduct a physical examination. They may order tests including:
In order to treat atrial fibrillation, the heart rate and rhythm must reset to normal. Doctors may be able to reset your heart to its regular rhythm using a procedure called cardioversion. However, treatment always depends on the initial cause of atrial fibrillation and how long a patient has had it.
One form of cardioversion uses medications called anti-arrhythmics to help restore normal sinus rhythm. Doctors may recommend trying intravenous or oral medications to return your heart to normal rhythm.
In the second procedure, an electrical shock is delivered to the heart through paddles or patches placed on the chest. It temporarily stops the heart beat in order to hopefully have it return again at a normal rhythm. After these procedures doctors may prescribe anti-arrhythmic medications. There are also additional catheter and surgical procedures available today.
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