Understanding Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) refers to a cardiovascular disease wherein there is a considerably abnormal frequency of the heartbeat. In this ailment, the upper chambers of the heart called Atria beat out of synchronization with lower chambers called ventricles. AFib may result in some fatal health conditions such as Stroke or Heart Failure. This is because of the blood clots that are formed in the heart can move to the brain that can trigger a stroke. Similarly, irregularity in the heartbeat can weaken the heart which may lead to heart failure.
Atrial Fibrillation is a very common medical condition in India with more than 10 million cases registered every year. Typically it is a chronic disease that may last lifelong.
Symptoms of AFib
It is not easy to ascertain whether a person is suffering from atrial fibrillation without a physical examination. In many cases, the patient himself does not feel anything suspicious in his health state besides some of the common symptoms discussed below:
- Abnormal heartbeat combined with sudden racing of the heartbeat resulting in some uneasiness in the chest
- Uncommon weakness or fatigue in the body
- Shortness of breath or some unusual pain felt in the chest
- Quick tiredness while exercising or any other physical activity
Atrial fibrillation may be categorized according to the frequency of its occurrence:
- Paroxysmal: In this state, symptoms last for few minutes or to an extent some hours before terminating on their own.
- Persistent: In this, medical treatment is needed in the form of electric shocks or other methods to bring the heartbeat back in to the normal state.
- Permanent: In this condition of the heart, a regular medication throughout life may be needed to maintain a healthy heartbeat.
Causes of AFib
Some of the most common causes for the atrial fibrillation are:
- Heart-related ailments.
- High blood pressure contributes substantially to atrial fibrillation. Other heart diseases such as coronary artery disease, abnormal heart valves increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation many folds.
- Age and family history.
- People of older age or those who have the family history of heart problems are more prone to this sickness.
- Suffering from other diseases.
- Those who suffer from other health disorders such as diabetes, thyroid, sleeping problems or some lung infections, are also at higher risk.
- Drinking alcohol and overweight.
- Those who are alcohol drinkers are at very high risk of developing this ailment. This fact also holds true for the persons who are overweight.
Depending upon the time period the patient is suffering from this disease, treatment may vary.
To bring the heartbeat in the normal range, some medicines mainly Lanoxin or Digoxin are prescribed. Supplements such as Calcium Channel Blockers are also advised with those medicines.
In cases where medicines do not improve the medical condition, procedures like cardioversion, cardiac ablation or surgical maze are advised by the cardiologist.
- Cardioversion: In this electrical shock is given to the patient which temporarily stops the electrical activity of the heart. Upon resumption, heartbeat will return to normal.
- Minimally Invasive Procedures: There are some circumstances where the above-discussed treatments prove to be ineffective or could not be applied. In those conditions minimally invasive procedures namely Cardiac Ablation and Surgical Maze are carried out. In these procedures, mainly the heart tissues which cause abnormality in the electric signals are removed to bring normalcy in the heartbeat.