Arrhythmia of the heart is basically a problem with the speed or rhythm at which the heart beats. The most common type of arrhythmia is Atrial fibrillation or AFib. Many people with this problem may not even have symptoms. The condition is not life-threatening but may cause complications that can be.
What is Atrial Fibrillation and Its Different Types?
To prevent serious complications, it is important to have Atrial Fibrillation explained so the patient can understand the risks. AFib is a condition where the upper chambers of the heart beat out of sync with the lower chambers. This beating can be chaotic and irregular.
There are several types of AFib. Intermittent AFib is when the irregular beating seems to come and go. Each episode may last a few minutes or even as long as a week. Persistent AFib is continuous and lasts longer than seven days. If the irregular beating lasts for longer than a year, it is considered long-standing persistent. When AFib does not stop and cannot be reset to a normal rhythm, it is considered permanent.
What are the Symptoms?
AFib does not always cause symptoms. When it does, however, it is important to know and understand the various things that can happen when AFib is occurring. These symptoms can include:
- Fast or fluttering heartbeat
- Pounding in chest
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
What are the Causes?
In general, AFib is caused by problems with the structure of the heart. There are a variety of things that can cause damage to the structure of the heart and may lead to AFib. In some cases, this condition is due to a heart defect from birth. Other health conditions may also cause the problem, such as coronary artery disease, sleep apnea, or even thyroid disease.
Viral infections, lung disease, or even certain medications or stimulants may cause problems with the structure of the heart that can lead to AFib. Heart valve issues, heart attacks, or even heart surgery may cause structural problems in some people. Even excessive physical stress due to surgeries or illness can cause damage to the heart.
What are the Risk Factors?
There are many risk factors that can make a person more susceptible to developing AFib. As a person ages, their risk of developing this condition increases. High blood pressure and heart disease can also increase the risk of developing this condition. Other risk factors include:
- Thyroid disease
- Alcohol consumption
- Family history
- Other chronic health conditions
What are the Treatments?
When Atrial fibrillation is symptomatic, treatment may be necessary. The specific treatment plan will depend on the types and severity of any symptoms as well as the underlying cause of the AFib. Steps will be taken to control heart rate and maintain a normal heart rhythm. Treatment may also include preventing blood clots and treating any other underlying causes or risk factors.
Medications, such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, may be used to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure. Anti-arrhythmic medications may also be used to control the rhythm of the heart. Blood thinners are also beneficial in preventing blood clots and the damage they may cause.
Cardioversion or even surgery may be necessary for some cases. It is always best to speak with a health care provider to find the best options for treating this condition.