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An arrhythmia is a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of arrhythmia. The cause is a disorder in the heart's electrical system.

Often, people who have AF may not even feel symptoms. But you may feel

  • Palpitations -- an abnormal rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or difficulty exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion

AF can lead to an increased risk of stroke. In many patients, it can also cause chest pain, heart attack, or heart failure.

Doctors diagnose AF using family and medical history, a physical exam, and a test called an electrocardiogram (EKG), which looks at the electrical waves your heart makes. Treatments include medicines and procedures to restore normal rhythm.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

The following features are indicative of Atrial Fibrillation:
  • heart palpitations
  • irregular heartbeat
  • lightheadedness
  • extreme fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
It is possible that Atrial Fibrillation shows no physical symptoms and still be present in a patient.
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Common Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

The following are the most common causes of Atrial Fibrillation:
  • family history
  • increased alcohol intake
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • high blood pressure
  • coronary artery disease
  • damaged heart's electrical system

Risk Factors for Atrial Fibrillation

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Atrial Fibrillation:
  • old age
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart failure
  • hyperthyroidism
  • ischemic heart disease
  • chronic kidney disease
  • heavy alcohol use

Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Atrial Fibrillation. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • avoid smoking
  • healthy diet intake
  • avoid alcohol consumption
  • maintain normal body weight

Occurrence of Atrial Fibrillation

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Atrial Fibrillation cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Atrial Fibrillation most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged > 50 years

Common Gender

Atrial Fibrillation can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Atrial Fibrillation:
  • Electrocardiogram: To detects and records the heart's electrical activity
  • Holter monitor: To records the heart's activity for a full 24- or 48-hour period
  • Event monitor: To monitor the heart's electrical activity at certain times
  • Stress test: To diagnose when your heart is working hard and beating fast
  • Echocardiography: To view the size and shape of the heart and identify areas of poor blood flow to the heart
  • Transesophageal echocardiography: To detect blood clots that may be forming in the atria
  • Chest x ray: To view pictures of the structures in the chest
  • Blood test: To determine the level of thyroid hormone in the body and the balance of the body's electrolytes

Doctor for Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation:
  • Cardiologists
  • Electrophysiologists

Complications of Atrial Fibrillation if untreated

Yes, Atrial Fibrillation causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Atrial Fibrillation is left untreated:
  • stroke
  • persistent atrial fibrillation

Procedures for Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

The following procedures are used to treat Atrial Fibrillation:
  • Catheter ablation: To control atrial fibrillation and restores your heart to a normal rhythm
  • Surgical maze procedure: To create electrical blocks or barriers in the atria of the heart
  • Atrioventricular node ablation: Prevents the atria from sending electrical impulses to the ventricles

Self-care for Atrial Fibrillation

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Atrial Fibrillation:
  • Eat heart-healthy foods: Improves the overall health of your heart
  • Exercise regularly: Increase your physical activity I Quit smoking: Prevents or treat conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Maintain healthy weight: Lowers the risk of developing heart disease

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Atrial Fibrillation:
  • Do yoga: Decreases oxidative stress and inflammation and lowers symptoms of symptomatic atrial fibrillation and non-atrial fibrillation episodes
  • Acupuncture: Decreases the recurrences of atrial fibrillation after cardioversion
  • Biofeedback therapy: Increases the parasympathetic activity and thus can decrease heart rate

Patient Support for Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

The following actions may help Atrial Fibrillation patients:
  • Caregiving for someone with atrial fibrillation: Helps in managing the atrial fibrillation condition
  • Learn about atrial fibrillation: Helps in providing good care and participate in treatment decisions
  • Join a support group: Gives you a forum to share your experiences with others who understand your situation

Time for Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Atrial Fibrillation to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • More than 1 year

Related Topics

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Atrial Fibrillation.

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