Atrial Fibrillation: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention


Atrial fibrillation is characterized by irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that increases the risk of blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications .

The heart consists of four chambers - two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles).

Normally, the body's electric signals are sent out to your heart to contract and pump blood throughout the body, which is called a normal, regular heartbeat. These tiny electric signals are produced by a part of the heart called the sinus node.

In atrial fibrillation, the electric signals become irregular in and around the atria (the upper chambers of the heart). This makes the atria twitch, which is known as fibrillation and it leads to irregular and rapid heartbeat.

When the upper chambers of the heart experience chaotic electric signals, the result is a fast and irregular heart rhythm which may range from 100 to 175 beats a minute. The normal heartbeat range is 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Other possible causes of atrial fibrillation include the following:

1. Occasional - This type of atrial fibrillation is called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. The symptoms come and go, which last for a few minutes to hours and then completely stop on their own.

2. Persistent - The heartbeat doesn't go back to normal on its own and is treated with electrical shock or medications to get back to the normal heartbeat.

3. Long-standing persistent - This is continuous and lasts longer than 12 months.

4. Permanent - The abnormal heartbeat can't be restored in this type of atrial fibrillation as it is permanent and treatment includes medications to control the heart rate.

Some people might not experience any signs or symptoms until and unless he/she has had a physical examination during diagnosis. However, the symptoms of atrial fibrillation are as follows:

If you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, consult a doctor. The doctor will conduct an electrocardiogram to determine if your symptoms are that of atrial fibrillation.

The doctor might use the following methods to diagnose atrial fibrillation.

Other tests like blood tests, stress test and chest X-ray are done.

The treatment depends on how long you have had atrial fibrillation, how severe your symptoms are, and any underlying cause of atrial fibrillation. The treatment procedures are as follows:

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