Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation In atrial fibrillation, the heart rate is irregular and can sometimes be very fast. What causes atrial fibrillation? When the heart beats normally, its muscular walls tighten and squeeze contract to force blood out and around the body. This process is repeated every time the heart beats.
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Managing heart rate If the heart rate is high, bringing it down is important to avoid heart failure and reduce the symptoms of A-fib. Several medications can help by slowing conduction of the signals that tell the heart to beat. These include: beta-blockers , such as propranolol, timolol, and atenolol calcium-channel blockers, such as diltiazem and verapamil digoxin Normalizing heart rhythm Instead of putting a person on blood thinners and heart rate-controlling medicine, doctors may try to return the heart rhythm to normal using medication.
This is called chemical or pharmacologic cardioversion. Medications called sodium channel blockers, such as flecainide and quinidine, and potassium channel blockers, such as amiodarone and sotalol, are examples of medications that help to convert A-fib to regular heart rhythm.
Options for converting A-fib to a regular rhythm include: Electrical cardioversion: The surgeon delivers an electric shock to the heart, which briefly resets the abnormal rhythm to a regular beat. Before carrying out cardioversion, they will often perform an echocardiogram by inserting a scope down the throat to produce an image of the heart to make sure no clots are present in the heart.
If they find a clot, a doctor will prescribe anticoagulant medication for several weeks to dissolve it. Cardioversion will then be possible. Catheter ablation: This destroys the tissue that is causing the irregular rhythm, returning the heart to a regular rhythm.
The surgeon may need to repeat this procedure if the A-fib returns. The surgeon sometimes destroys the area in which the signals travel between the atria and ventricles. This stops the A-fib, but the heart can no longer send a signal to orchestrate a beat. In these instances, the surgeon will then fit a pacemaker. Surgical ablation: The heart tissue that is causing the irregular rhythm can also be removed in an open-heart surgery called a maze procedure.
A surgeon will often carry out this procedure alongside a heart repair. Pacemaker placement: This device instructs the heart to beat regularly. A surgeon will sometimes place a pacemaker in a person with intermittent A-fib that only occurs intermittently. When a doctor feels that another condition is responsible for the A-fib, such as hyperthyroidism or sleep apnea, they will treat the underlying condition alongside the arrhythmia.
Takeaway A-fib is a disorder that causes an irregular heart rhythm. It occurs more often after the age of 65 years and may or may not cause symptoms. The condition can lead to a stroke when blood pools in the heart and forms a clot that travels to the brain. Lifestyle adjustments that can help to prevent A-fib include a heart-healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, and getting regular exercise.
There are two treatment options. A doctor might allow an irregular rhythm to continue but control the heart rate and prescribe an anticoagulant to help prevent a stroke. Alternatively, the doctor might try to convert the irregular rhythm back to a regular one with medication or a procedure.
Q: If A-fib does not show symptoms, how can I take steps to stop it before it causes complications? A: The first step is recognizing you have it. Increase the odds of finding A-fib by regularly visiting your doctor for ongoing or preventative care.
Once you have A-fib, unless it stops spontaneously on its own, the only way to avoid complications is through appropriate treatment. Nancy Moyer, M. Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice. Medically reviewed by Nancy L.
In lone atrial fibrillation, the cause is often unclear, and serious complications are rare. Atrial flutter Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation, but the rhythm in your atria is more organized and less chaotic than the abnormal patterns common with atrial fibrillation. Sometimes you may have atrial flutter that develops into atrial fibrillation and vice versa. The risk factors for and the symptoms and causes of atrial flutter are similar to those of atrial fibrillation. For example, strokes are also a concern in someone with atrial flutter.
Atriyal fibrilasyon nedir? Nasıl bir hastalıktır?
Normal rhythm tracing top Atrial fibrillation bottom How a stroke can occur during atrial fibrillation AF is usually accompanied by symptoms related to a rapid heart rate. Other possible symptoms include congestive heart failure symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath , or swelling. The abnormal heart rhythm arrhythmia is sometimes only identified with the onset of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack TIA. It is not uncommon for a person to first become aware of AF from a routine physical examination or ECG , as it often does not cause symptoms. A history of stroke or TIA, as well as high blood pressure , diabetes , heart failure , or rheumatic fever may indicate whether someone with AF is at a higher risk of complications.