Atrial Fibrillation Defined
One of the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) case is called Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib or AF). It is a condition which manifests the quivering of the atria (two upper chambers of the heart) instead of them contracting in a coordinated rhythm. The simplest way to check this is to take a pulse and observe. A normal heartbeat should have regular intervals, but those with AF, it is otherwise.
Different AF Forms
Initially, all AF patients are categorized under the First Detected AF. Those patients who have had experienced prior undetected episodes and those who have had not are both under this category.
Intermittent Or Paroxysmal Pattern
When an episode is detected the first time and it self-terminates in less than a week, then still recurs – it has reached the intermittent or paroxysmal pattern. The said pattern shows that the heart develops Atrial Fibrillation then returns to its normal rhythm spontaneously, normally in less than a day.
There is also the persistent Atrial Fibrillation pattern. It takes place in episodes. However, the arrhythmia does not go back to its original rhythm spontaneously. To end the episode, medical treatment is recommended.
The gravest pattern would be permanent. This is when the heart is in Atrial Fibrillation at all times. Having it go back to its rhythm is impossible or is not suitable for medical reasons.
However, there is also what’s branded as the Lone AF. It has been used to describe AF in individuals without cardiac or pulmonary disease, with low risk for thromboembolism.
Signs And Symptoms
Atrial Fibrillation’s symptom is most often associated with a rapid heart rate. Irregular heart rates may be apprehended as congestive manifestations of shortness of breath, exercise intolerance and palpitations, which is also called as edema. In most cases, AF can also be detected with symptoms such as symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as diarrhea and weight loss, chest pain or angina, and other symptoms that are common manifestations of lung disease. A patient is also at a higher risk of complications when he or she has a history of stroke, rheumatic fever, heart failure and diabetes.
Even without an evidence of an underlying cardiac disease, it is still very possible for an Atrial Fibrillation to occur. Some causes which are not directly involved with the heart are the following:
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
Hypertension (High blood pressure)
Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs)
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake
A family history of AF may increase the risk of AF
A Patient who develops Atrial Fibrillation is evaluated by a medical history and physical examination. Furthermore, an echocardiogram (cardiac echo) and electrocardiogram (ECG) are also done. It is the doctor’s normal procedure to gather information on heart problems or chest pains and check if the known symptoms are being experienced by the patient.
Treating Atrial Fibrillation has a main goal of preventing temporary circulatory instability and stroke. Preventing the former requires a rate or rhythm control while the risk of stroke can be decreased by anticoagulation.
Rate control aims to decrease the rapid heart rate to what is closer to normal – which is 60-100 BPM (beats per minute), with no attempt to revert to a regular rhythm. The main purpose of the rhythm control is to restore the normal heart rhythm through cardioversion alongside drugs as maintenance. Meanwhile, anticoagulation can be done through aspirin warfarin, dabigatran and heparin. Choosing a method involves consideration of the cost, risk of stroke, risk of falls, compliance, and speed of desired onset of anticoagulation.