Table of Contents
Definition of Atrial Fibrillation
As a consequence, they do not pump blood very effectively to the ventricles.
Though most of the blood that enters the atria drains to the ventricles, some blood pools in the atria. The pooled blood establishes a very high risk for blood clots to form and a corresponding increase in the risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack (tia). Atrial fibrillation is the cause of one in five strokes.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia that requires treatment, affecting about 5 percent of people over age 65.
Signs and Symptoms
The typical symptoms of atrial fibrillation include
- Rapid tiring during physical activity
- Generalized fatigue
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Angina pectoris (chest pain)
- Syncope (fainting)
However, many people have mild or no symptoms, with the doctor detecting atrial fibrillation during the course of examination for other health concerns.
Hypotension (low blood pressure) and a weak, irregular, and often rapid pulse are common signs the doctor detects during examination. An electrocardiogram (ecg) confirms the diagnosis. Echocardiogram may reveal the underlying cause of the arrhythmia, especially when valvular heart disease is to blame.
Antiarrhythmia medications such as beta blockers or calcium channel blockers restore a normal heart rhythm (normal sinus rhythm) in most people who have atrial fibrillation. These medications can have mild to significant side effects and can slow the heart too much, causing bradycardia, another arrhythmia.
For atrial fibrillation that does not respond to these medical measures, the cardiologist may suggest cardioversion, which uses electrical shock to jolt the heart back into normal rhythm, or radiofrequency ablation, which destroys a small portion of heart tissue to permanently disrupt the flow of electrical impulses in the heart.
Cardiologists typically prescribe anticoagulation therapy, usually aspirin or warfarin and sometimes both, in addition to antiarrhythmia medications for people who have atrial fibrillation, to reduce the risk for clot formation and resulting stroke.
Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
Common causes of Atrial Fibrillation include hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease (cad), congestive heart failure, pericarditis, and rheumatic heart disease. Atrial fibrillation may follow myocardial infarction and is also more common among people who have diabetes or hyperthyroidism. There are no known measures for preventing atrial fibrillation beyond lifestyle behaviors to maintain overall cardiovascular health.