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
- 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.