What Is Atrial Fibrillation? (Definition)
Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is identified by an irregular or rapid heartbeat (arrhythmia) or abnormal heart rhythm which can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. It is the most common type of irregular heartbeat.
In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly (quiver) instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricles.
Types of Atrial Fibrillation:
- Paroxysmal fibrillation: The heart returns to a normal rhythm on its own, or with intervention, within 7 days of its start.
- Persistent AFib is an irregular rhythm that lasts for longer than 7 days. Does not return to normal sinus rhythm on its own and will require some form of treatment.
- Long-standing AFib is when the heart is consistently in an irregular rhythm that lasts longer than 1-year.
- Permanent AFib occurs when the condition lasts indefinitely.
- Nonvalvular AFib is atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve issue.
What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?
As far as what causes AFib, the condition has been linked to several forms of cardiovascular disease, but may also occur in people with “normal hearts”. Cardiovascular factors known to be associated with the development of AFib include high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, mitral stenosis, mitral regurgitation, left atrial enlargement, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), pericarditis, congenital heart disease, and previous heart surgery. Some lung diseases are also thought to be a contributing factor.
According to The American Heart Association, atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and is associated with a 5-fold increased risk for stroke. They estimate that at least 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib.
Atrial Fibrillation is often treated with medications to slow the heart rate to a near normal range or to convert the rhythm to normal sinus rhythm. Electrical cardioversion can also be used to convert AF to a normal sinus rhythm and is often used emergently if the person is unstable. Treatment may also include adapting lifestyle changes, cardiac ablation, pacemakers, or surgery.
Signs and Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
It’s often been said that early detection is the best medicine, and when it comes to treating diseases and conditions like atrial fibrillation, the saying definitely holds true. It is important to pay attention to symptoms, however minor they may seem, as they could be the first signs of disease. In many cases, knowing the early warning signs of atrial fibrillation can help identify the disease and treat it before it becomes serious or life threatening.
Many symptoms are common to many different types of diseases and conditions, such as unexplained weight loss, fatigue, etc. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing so that a proper diagnosis can be made, and if necessary, you can begin treatment.
If you are experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms associated with atrial fibrillation, consult with your doctor to identify what may be causing your symptoms. Advancements in diagnosing and treating atrial fibrillation are occurring on a regular basis thanks to ongoing research being conducted at major medical research universities and institutions around the world.
As with many disease and conditions, some people with atrial fibrillation may not notice any symptoms and only become aware of their condition through a physical examination at the doctor’s office. Symptoms that do present themselves may include:
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Fluttering or “thumping” in the chest
- Dizziness or fainting
- Shortness of breath and anxiety
- Faintness or confusion
- Chest pain or pressure
See below for updated news and information regarding Atrial Fibrillation including new medical research, treatment options and advancements.
Latest Atrial Fibrillation Treatment News and Research
Atrial Fibrillation Treatment News: More than half of atrial fibrillation patients become asymptomatic after catheter ablation
Atrial Fibrillation Treatment News: Study Shows Combination Therapies More Effective in Preventing Bleeding Complications
Atrial Fibrillation Information: Research Shows Half of Atrial Fibrillation Patients Do Not Receive Medications that Could Help Prevent Complications