ATRIAL FIBRILLATION

What causes atrial fibrillation?

Both men and women may suffer from A-fib. As you age, the causes of the disease increase in commonality. Common causes include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attacks or heart failure
  • Heart valve disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain medications

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

One of the dangers of atrial fibrillation is that symptoms can be non-existent or they may come and go. The most commonly reported symptoms are:

  • Heart palpitations (the feeling your heart is fluttering or beating too hard or too fast)
  • A racing pulse
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Feeling pauses between heartbeats

How is atrial fibrillation diagnosed ?

During a physical exam your doctor will listen to your heartbeat and take your pulse. If either is elevated your doctor will let you know. A normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Someone suffering with atrial fibrillation will have a heart rate between 100 and 175 beats per minute

If your doctor suspects you may have A-fib you will most likely undergo an ECG. This is a non-invasive test that records your heart’s electrical activity. Additionally, your doctor may ask you to wear a holter monitor (a small device with electrodes that stick to your chest and monitor your heart over a 24-hour period) and an event monitor (similar to the holter except you wear it over a 2 week period to monitor your heartbeat at various times and stressors the day).

How is atrial fibrillation treated ?

The goal in treating atrial fibrillation is to get the heartbeat back to normal. This is done through cardioversion treatment. This treatment has two options:

  • Electrical shocks to the heart
  • Intravenous drugs
  • Catheter ablation

Options can be done if atrial fibrillation is diagnosed or in an emergency.