Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that begins in your heart’s upper chambers (atria). Symptoms include fatigue, heart palpitations, trouble breathing and dizziness. Afib is one of the most common arrhythmias.
Changes or damage to your heart’s tissue and electrical system cause atrial fibrillation. Usually, coronary artery disease or high blood pressure causes those changes.
Often a trigger heartbeat causes atrial fibrillation to begin. But sometimes it’s hard to know the cause of that triggered heartbeat.
For some people, there is no identifiable cause.
Research is constantly providing new information to help us learn more about the
Afib often runs in families. So, if a close family member has Afib, you have a
family historyand therefore a higher chance of developing it, too.
Heart attack symptoms
Pain, discomfort or pressure in the center of your chest or upper abdomen (it could come and go, or persist).
A feeling of squeezing, fullness, heartburn or indigestion.
Pain down your left arm.
People assigned female at birth may also have:
Nausea and vomiting.
Shortness of breath.
Pain in the back, shoulders or jaw.
Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of your body.
Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.
Difficulty seeing in one or both of your eyes.
Feeling dizzy or off-balance.
Sudden headache for no reason.
Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
An EKG is usually the first test. It’s painless and takes about three minutes. It measures and records your heart’s electrical signals and allows your provider to see if your heart is beating normally.
An echo uses ultrasound technology to show your heart’s movement. It can reveal problems with blood flow and heart muscle contractions.
Sometimes, imbalances in our blood can cause Afib. Simple blood tests can show your potassium and thyroid hormone levels and can help your provider choose the best medicines for you based on your liver and kidney function.
Type 2 diabetes.
Coronary artery disease.
Congenital heart disease.
Lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Medications to treat Afib may include:
Rate control medications to prevent the ventricles from beating too fast. Examples include digoxin, metoprolol, verapamil or diltiazem.
Rhythm control medications to help your heart beat in a normal sinus rhythm. Examples include procainamide, disopyramide, flecainide acetate, propafenone, sotalol, dofetilide or amiodarone.
Blood thinners (anticoagulant medications) to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. Examples include warfarin, warfarin alternatives or aspirin.
Electrical cardioversion electrically “resets” your heart rhythm using low-energy shocks, but it may only be a temporary solution.
Pulmonary vein ablation uses catheters to deliver energy outside and around your pulmonary veins. This procedure helps you respond better to your Afib medications. You may not even need medications long-term.
A permanent pacemaker may be inserted if you have a slow heart rate. Usually, it’s only used if you have another arrhythmia in addition to Afib.
Left atrial appendage closure is a procedure that reduces your risk of blood clots and stroke.
The MAZE procedure creates scar tissue that helps your heart’s electrical impulses travel in the right path. This procedure has a high success rate. If you have severe Afib symptoms and a history of stroke or blood clots, your provider may recommend this option.