Afib Heart Disease Treatments Reduce Likelihood of Complications
Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, causes problems with the heart’s electrical impulse system resulting in an AFib irregular heartbeat. The most common type of heartbeat problem, AFib affects 2.2 million people in the United States.
AFib Heart Disease
The four chambers of the heart normally beat regularly, with the two uppermost chambers beating first, followed by the lower two chambers. The beats begin with the signal from an electrical impulse in the right atrium. During AFib heart disease, the impulses don’t travel through the heart in a regular fashion. Impulses fire rapidly, sometimes as fast as 300 to 600 beats per minute. The atrioventricular node limits these pulses, resulting in an AFib heart rate that is 150 beats per minute or less.
Symptoms of AFib
Symptoms of the heart problem may include:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Heart palpitations where the heart seems to race or flutter
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort or pain in the chest
Not everyone with AFib will experience all of these symptoms and more than one symptom can occur at the same time.
Causes of AFib
AFib can be caused by a variety of conditions, which include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart valve disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Heart failure
- Congenital heart disease that is present at birth
- Pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lungs
- Viral infection
Though excessive caffeine use, drugs, alcohol, severe infections or metabolic issues can also cause AFib to occur, these account for less than 10 percent of all cases.
Complications from AFib
Though many people live for years with AFib without any complications, they are more at risk for other heart problems. In AFib, the heart doesn’t pump blood effectively due to it beating irregularly and rapidly, resulting in a greater chance of AFib blood clots forming.
When a blood clot leaves the heart, it may travel to the brain, resulting in an AFib stroke. People who have AFib are five to seven times more likely to have a stroke than others without the disease. If the blood clot travels to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, kidneys, heart or intestines, other life-threatening problems can occur. Because AFib may decrease the heart’s ability to pump by as much as 25 percent, combined with a rapid heart rate, AFib heart failure may occur if symptoms are sustained over several days.
Treatments for AFib
Depending on the severity of symptoms, doctors work with their patients to reduce the symptoms of AFib and the likelihood of complications occurring. Medications, surgery and lifestyle changes can all help to regulate the heartbeat, prevent blood clots from forming and reduce the likelihood of stroke occurring.
A medical professional will diagnose patients with AFib by using special tests. Talking with a doctor is the best way to get a proper diagnosis, get treatment and prevent complications from occurring.