Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia with chaotic and quick heartbeats in the heart’s upper chambers, or the atria. This disease causes the chambers to beat inconsistently with the lower chambers, or the ventricles, posing a risk of blood clots.
This disease can be either symptomatic or asymptomatic, and persistent or non-persistent. For some people, atrial fibrillation might cause palpitations, difficulty in breathing and fatigue.
In most cases, atrial fibrillation is a non-fatal disease. However, as it may pose a risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related defects, it can be a severe disease that needs to be treated to prevent any of these complications from occurring.
Treatment can include medications, cardioversion to restore a regular heart rhythm, and using a catheter to correct irregular heart electricity.
Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms, but for patients with symptomatic atrial fibrillation, the symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
The types of atrial fibrillation are as follows:
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: The duration of symptoms varies from few minutes to hours, and symptoms can last for a week. It can happen occasionally and repeatedly, as well as can disappear on their own.
Persistent atrial fibrillation: A patient with this type of the disease is recommended to receive treatment with medications or cardioversion as the symptoms do not disappear without being treated.
Long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation: The symptoms are persistent in episode spans over one year.
Permanent atrial fibrillation: This kind of atrial fibrillation cannot be permanently cured but can prevent the occurrence of blood clots and control heart rate with medications.
A patient is recommended to receive medical consultations in case of symptomatic atrial fibrillation. Immediate medical treatment is required for patients with a chance of having a heart attack, such as those suffering from chest pain.
Atrial fibrillation is caused by irregular signals of the upper chambers of the heart, leading to quivers in the chambers causing the atrioventricular (AV) node, located between the upper and lower chambers, to be disrupted by many signals sent to the lower heart chambers. This cause the heart beat fast and irregular. Those with atrial fibrillation have a heartbeat rate of 100-175 beats per minute, higher than the normal rate of 60-100 beats per minute.
An abnormal cardiac structure is the most potential risk factor of atrial fibrillation. Other causes of the disease include:
Coronary artery disease
Congenital heart condition
Valvular heart disease
Having a history of cardiac surgery
Sick sinus syndrome
Abnormal thyroid gland or metabolic issues
Consumption of some stimulants or medications
Despite symptoms, atrial fibrillation might not always cause heart issues or injury.
These following factors can raise the risk of developing atrial fibrillation:
Age: The risk grows with age.
Cardiac condition: A patient with any cardiac disease, previous heart attack or cardiac surgery.
Hypertension: Hypertension, especially if not controlled by medication previously.
Thyroid disease: Thyroid hormone has a direct effect on the heart. Hyperthyroidism can increase the heart rate (tachycardia) as well as irregular heart rhythm. While hypothyroidism can cause a slow heart rate (bradycardia).