Atrial Fibrillation – Cause, Symptoms, Complications & Treatment

What is atrial fibrillation?

  • Atrial fibrillation is an irregular or fast beating of upper chambers (atria) of heart leading to ineffective blood pumping to various organs.
  • Atrial fibrillation is termed as “A-fib” in short form.
  • This condition increases the risk of developing stroke; heart-related problems as well as death due to the blood clots formed during an irregular heartbeat.
  • Atrial fibrillation is classified into different categories include:
  • Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: Irregular heartbeat terminates immediately or with intervention within seven days.
  • Persistent atrial fibrillation: This stage cannot be self-terminate by itself and require medication or electrical shock for the restoration of normal rhythm and rate.
  • Long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation: Symptoms lasting more than 12 months.
  • Permanent atrial fibrillation: In this type, atrial fibrillation is not restored permanently and often requires lifelong medicines to control rate and rhythm.

What are the causes of atrial fibrillation?

  • Hypertension (High blood pressure)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Heart-related problems like heart valve disease, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease.
  • Diabetes mellitus (High sugar levels)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Who increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation?

  • Older age
  • Previous heart disease/heart surgery
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Family history of atrial fibrillation
Atrial Fibrillation
Medical illustration Atrial Fibrillation

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Syncope
  • Fatigue

What are the complications of atrial fibrillation?

  • Stroke: In atrial fibrillation, the abnormal rhythm may use the overload of blood in atria and form blood clots. These clots potentially can travel into blood vessels the brain and cause stroke.
  • Heart failure: When the heart cannot pump blood enough to meet body metabolic requirements.
  • Cardiac myopathy: Weakness of cardiac muscle
  • Sudden death

How is atrial fibrillation diagnosed?

  • Electrocardiogram: To determine electrical changes in heart during atrial fibrillation
  • Echocardiogram
  • Transthoracic echocardiogram
  • CT scan
  • Chest X-ray

How is atrial fibrillation treated?

  • Anti-coagulation therapy to prevent blood clots
  • Pharmacological therapy to control heart rate and rhythm
  • Electrical cardioversion ( Shock) to reset the cardiac rhythm
  • Cardioversion with antiarrhythmic rhythmics to restore cardiac rhythm
  • Catheter ablation/maze procedure/ AV node ablation to restore normal rhythm

Left atrial appendage closure to prevent blood clots



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