Atrial fibrillation is defined as a rapid or erratic heartbeat that starts in the upper heart chambers. The irregular heartbeat disrupts the capability of the heart to pump blood to the entire body.
What are the causes?
If an individual has atrial fibrillation, the electrical signs do not originate in the normal site in the right atrium and do not travel normally. This causes the upper heart chambers to rapidly beat and in an erratic manner.
The usual causes of heart rhythm issues include ailments that impair the heart such as heart attack, coronary artery disease or heart failure. Issues with the heart valves are also possible causes.
Other possible causes include:
- Lung diseases, stroke, diabetes, overactive thyroid gland or high blood pressure
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
What are the indications?
Some individuals do not have any signs. Once atrial fibrillation triggers symptoms, the usual ones include:
- Sensation that the heart is beating too rapidly or forcefully or skipping beats or fluttering
- Tiredness or weakness
The signs that are considered serious include the following:
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Difficulty breathing
Management of atrial fibrillation
The aim of treatment for atrial fibrillation is to maintain a normal heart rhythm. The treatment is based on the root of the condition, frequency and seriousness of the symptoms.
If there are no symptoms present or only mild, treatment is not necessary. In some cases, atrial fibrillation only lasts briefly and the heart returns to its normal rhythm on its own.
In case the root cause is a leaking heart valve, treating the condition can deal with the rapid or erratic heartbeat.
Other treatment options that are used include:
- Drugs – the doctor might provide medications to slow down or restore the normal heart rate and rhythm. Drugs might also be given to prevent blood clots.
- Electrical cardioversion – this involves the use of an electrical shock to restore the normal heart rhythm
- Ablation – this is a procedure that involves a catheter that delivers energy within the heart. This energy scars small regions of the heart tissue to block the erratic electrical pathways and restore the normal rhythm.