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Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, which you may experience due to a problem in the electrical system of the heart. Such a problem causes the upper parts of the heart or the atria to fibrillate. Due to this quivering, the normal rhythm between the lower parts of the heart and the atria gets disrupted. The ventricles are likely to beat faster in an irregular rhythm. This is a severe condition where the blood may get collected in the atria; this could lead to the formation of blood clots. These clots can block the blood flow and lead to a stroke.
Several conditions cause strain and damage to the heart. These include the following:
- High blood pressure or hypertension
- Heart attack
- Valvular diseases
- Coronary artery disease
- Medical problems like heart failure, lung diseases, high level of thyroid or pneumonia
- Heart surgeries
- Excess consumption of alcohol
The primary symptoms of atrial fibrillation include the following:
- Light-headedness and dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling weak and fatigued
- Feeling as if the heart is pounding, fluttering or racing (known as palpitations)
- Feeling that the beating of the heart is uneven
- Chest pain and fainting
In many cases of atrial fibrillation, the symptoms may be absent.
Conducting several tests, physical examinations and an analysis of your health history is the first step towards diagnosing atrial fibrillation. An electrocardiogram (ECG) needs to be carried out for the detection of this condition. This test is performed for checking problems regarding the electrical activity of the heart. Other laboratory tests and an echocardiogram maybe required as well. An echocardiogram helps in observing the pumping function of the heart and to check whether the valves have been damaged.
The treatment options for atrial fibrillation depend on the cause, symptoms and the risks of getting a stroke. Several medicines are used for treatment along with other methods. They are as follows:
- Blood thinning medicines for the prevention of a stroke.
- Heart rate control medicines which will prevent irregular beating of the heart.
- Rhythm control medicines for restoring the heart’s rhythm to normal.
- A process known as cardioversion may be used to bring the heartbeat to a normal rhythm. This can be carried out by medicines or an electric shock therapy known as electrical cardioversion.
- In case of severe symptoms, ablation may be carried out where the affected areas of the heart are destroyed by the creation of a scar tissue.
For the best diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation, you must consult a doctor as soon as you start experiencing the symptoms of the condition. A doctor will prescribe all that you need for an effective treatment.