The heart is made up of four chambers, two atria and two ventricles. The left side of the heart houses oxygenated blood and is responsible for the distribution of his nutrient rich blood to the body. The right side of the heart manages the deoxygenated blood and ensures its delivery to the lungs for it to be oxygenated. These chambers rely on electrical impulses to direct and time blood release to their destinations. These electrical impulses are prone to irregularities and can result in arrhythmias. Arrhythmia is a term to describe occurrences when the heart is not beating in a proper rhythm. Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, is the most common type of arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation is extremely common amongst the general population and thus, managing atrial fibrillation is crucial in avoiding potential compounding health issues. For example, atrial fibrillation and stroke risk are positively correlated. There are three different types of atrial fibrillation: paroxysmal, persistent, and permanent. They differ from one another in the duration of irregular heartbeats. There are also cases of nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat that is not associated with any of the four valves of the heart. There are numerous risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation. These include previous heart complications, aging, and hypertension. Atrial fibrillation can also present many troubling and life altering symptoms. The most common is chronic fatigue to due an inadequate blood supply being distributed to the muscles and tissues of the body. Other symptoms include feeling dizzy and difficulty breathing. In other situations, atrial fibrillation may result in no symptoms and individuals may not even notice it is present.
It is important to seek medical assistance, as managing atrial fibrillation is crucial in avoiding other health complications. Atrial fibrillation complications can include an increase risk of stroke development and the formation of blood clots. Also, if the heart muscles may begin to weaken and become inefficient, leading to cardiomyopathy. Managing atrial fibrillation is imperative to avoid these serious health related complications. Several diagnostic tests can be used to provide a confirmation of atrial fibrillation. These can include Holter monitors, echocardiograms, cardiac computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Managing atrial fibrillation can include lifestyle changes, medications and if needed, surgery. Atrial fibrillation and anticoagulation medications are the most common form of treatment. This is due to the correlation of atrial fibrillation and blood clots. Anticoagulants can severely decrease the likelihood of suffering from a life-threatening stroke. Several other treatment methods for managing atrial fibrillation are also present. These can include the use of pacemakers, maze heart surgery, catheter ablation, and electrical cardioversion. Your physician is the best person to decide what the best method is for managing atrial fibrillation.
Normally, the sinoatrial (SA) node commonly referred to as the pacemaker of the heart, starts the electrical conductance off. This signal then travels to the atria, and then the atrioventricular node, where another electrical signal is sent to signal the ventricles to contract. This is all done extremely fast and the SA node re-starts the process with a subsequent electrical impulse. In atrial fibrillation, the electrical impulses are not given off in a rhythmic fashion. Rather, electrical impulses originate from all over the atria and result in an irregular or hyperactive heart beat. There are three different types of atrial fibrillation: paroxysmal, persistent and permanent. Also, nonvalvular atrial fibrillation can also be present.
An irregular heartbeat can start randomly in this type of atrial fibrillation. It may last anywhere from a minute to 2-4 days. It usually goes away with time.
An irregular heartbeat can last longer than 7 days and without treatment, will persist.
An irregular heartbeat does not go away in patients with permanent atrial fibrillation. It is unlikely the heart will ever return to a normal rhythm without surgical procedures.
Atrial fibrillation symptoms have the potential to be life altering and should be treated with caution. In other cases, those with atrial fibrillation may not present any symptoms. The most common symptom of atrial fibrillation is the chronic fatigue. This is due to the fact that the heart is pumping too quickly and not allowing time for the atria and ventricles to adequately fill with blood to distribute to the body. Also, an abnormal pulse rate and difficulty breathing, especially when exercising are also common complications. Other symptoms can include pain in the chest region, fainting, feeling lightheaded, and excessive sweating. Managing atrial fibrillation symptoms are imperative in decreasing the risk of life threatening occurrences. It is best to contact medical assistance immediately if any of these symptoms arise.
Atrial fibrillation complications can be quite serious and life threatening. Managing atrial fibrillation is crucial to avoid more serious health problems. Atrial fibrillation complications can include blood clots, stroke and heart failure.
Due to an irregular heartbeat, the risk for developing atrial fibrillation and blood clots increases. Blood may begin to pool or travel to slowly through the heart. Atrial fibrillation and blood clots thus, usually occur in conjunction. For this reason, atrial fibrillation and anticoagulation medications are usually the first line of defense in treating atrial fibrillation. It is best to talk with your doctor to examine the risks of atrial fibrillation and blood clots.
Atrial fibrillation and stroke risk are exponentially increased while suffering from an irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation and stroke risk increases due to the increased likelihood of developing a blood clot in the heart due to blood pooling or slower blood travel. These blood clots have the potential dislodge and travel to the brain where they can block crucial blood supply to vital cerebral arteries. It is imperative to discuss atrial fibrillation and stroke risk with your doctor.
While suffering from a hyperactive heart rate or heartbeat, the heart muscles themselves may become weakened. This is due to the myocardium becoming overworked. When these heart muscles become weakened, they also become more inefficient and can directly cause heart failure. It is crucial to talk to your doctor about the chances of suffering from heart failure in conjunction with atrial fibrillation.
There are numerous risk factors that increase the like hood of developing atrial fibrillation. Some of these risk factors are not preventable, such as aging and inherited heart complications or disease. Other acquired risk factors of developing atrial fibrillation include hypertension, diabetes, excessive drug use, and thyroid disease. You should discuss with your physician on how to limit the risk factors of developing atrial fibrillation.
If the symptoms of atrial fibrillation are present, doctors usually want to confirm their suspicions with tests and procedures. These tests can directly translate into proper managing of atrial fibrillation in the future. Some of the most used tests and procedures include electrocardiograms, Holter monitors, echocardiograms, and cardiac CT scans.
Electrocardiograms are the best method for accurately diagnosis atrial fibrillation. Electrocardiograms are responsible for detecting irregularities in the hearts electrical activity. To do this, lab technicians place numerous electrodes over the chest region to measure the electrical activity of the heart.
Holter Monitors are imperative in managing atrial fibrillation. They are worn for several days and monitor the hearts electrical activity. Holter monitors are especially crucial in paroxysmal types of atrial fibrillation. They help detect electrical irregularities outside of a hospital or medical setting.
Echocardiograms produce detailed images of the heart and how efficiently each contraction is pumping blood. They are also crucial in the managing of atrial fibrillation and help examine potential irregularities produced by the heart.
Cardiac CT scans are also especially important in providing clean and magnified images of the heart. CT scans help determine if arrhythmias are present and if managing of atrial fibrillation is needed.
Managing atrial fibrillation depends on the severity of the irregular heartbeat in question. As mentioned previously, some patients with atrial fibrillation may not even know it is present, as no symptoms have arisen. In other cases, it may lead to blood clots and stroke development. The options of treatment include lifestyle changes, medications, non-invasive procedures and surgery.
To begin, physicians usually elect lifestyle changes such as avoiding excessive consumption of drugs or alcohol, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy limit of exercise.
Atrial fibrillation and anticoagulation medications are usually the first recommended treatment by physicians. This is to avoid potential blood clots and strokes from developing. Managing atrial fibrillation may require the use of other medications as well. These can include medications to lower blood pressure and slow heart rate. For example, calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers help slow and return the heart rate to a normal pace. Atrial fibrillation and anticoagulation medications are usually the most important in avoiding a potential life-threatening occurrence from developing.
Physicians also can elect to perform non-invasive procedures to help correct an irregular heartbeat. The most common procedure is electrical cardioversion. Electrical cardioversion is a procedure that sends an electrical shock to the heart in hopes to restart and correct the electrical impulses in the heart. Managing atrial fibrillation with this technique must be monitored after the procedure takes place as it has been shown an irregular heartbeat can quickly return.
If deemed necessary, surgery is the final option for treating atrial fibrillation. Catheter ablation involves the insertion of a thin tube into a blood vessel of the body. The catheter is then directed to the site that is sending irregular electrical impulse so it can be corrected. In other cases, the surgical insertion of a pacemaker is another option to treat an irregular heartbeat. The use of a pacemaker is especially useful in nonvalvular atrial fibrillation.
It is best to discuss what the best method of managing atrial fibrillation is with your physician.