Atrial Fibrillation (also known as AFib) occurs when the rhythm of your heart’s contractions (squeezings) become irregular, causing a “quivering” or “fluttering” sensation. The upper chambers of the heart (the atria) cause the irregularity by beating out of sync with the two lower chambers (ventricles). Atrial fibrillation may not be a serious health issue at the outset, but over time it can lead to complications such as blood clots in the heart which are passed on to other organs where they lodge and block blood flow (ischemia).
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
Your doctor will review your medical history, conduct a physical examination, and possibly order one or more of the following tests:
- Holter monitor
- Event recorder
- Blood tests
- Stress test
- Chest X-ray
Your treatment will largely depend upon how long and severe your condition has been. Your doctor will strive to achieve one or more of the following goals:
- Reset the rhythm of the your heartbeat
- Control the rate of your heartbeat
- Prevent blood clots
- Decrease your risk of stroke
Once your regular heartbeat has been reestablished, your doctor will strive to maintain a normal rhythm for your heart. This may involve anti-arrhythmic medications.
In some cases, medications will not be enough, at which point your doctor may recommend a procedure to destroy the area causing the irregularity.
Blood clots will be another factor your physician will monitor, as atrial fibrillation comes with an increased risk of clotting.