Atrial fibrillation —often referred to simply as AFib—is a type of heart arrhythmia. AFib impacts the atrial chambers of the heart (top 2 chambers of the heart), and when left untreated, could lead to an increased risk of stroke. If your cardiologist has told you that you have AFib, here is what you need to know.
What Happens to the Heart with AFib?
With a normal heartbeat, an electrical impulse starts in the right atrium—the upper right chamber of the heart—and passes through the left atrium and down into the ventricles (lower chambers) along a specific pathway (septal wall). When you have AFib, the electrical signal doesn’t come in a regular pattern, so it causes the atrial muscles to quiver rather than a synchronized beat. This impacts both the efficiency and the speed of your heartbeat. A number of different things can cause AFib to develop, including heart disease, mitral valve damage, hyperthyroidism, and lung disease.
What Are the Symptoms?
Some patients don’t experience any symptoms with AFib while others feel heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Chest pain is also possible. Some patients only learn that they have AFib after they experience a complication, like a stroke. If you’re having symptoms of AFib, your cardiologist may order an ECG or have you wear a heart monitor, which is a portable ECG device that records your heart rate over an extended period of time.
How Is It Treated?
Treatment for AFib depends on several factors. In some cases, treating an underlying cause, like hyperthyroidism, will resolve the AFib. For mild to moderate AFib symptoms, your cardiologist may prescribe medications to slow your heart rate plus blood thinners to lessen the risk of stroke. For more severe AFib symptoms, cardioversion or radiofrequency ablation may be used to encourage your heart to beat in a normal rhythm.
If you have AFib, trust Cardiac Solutions to manage your care. Our cardiologists provide cutting-edge, compassionate care to patients with a range of heart conditions. NEW: We offer FREE AFib education classes. Visit one of our locations in Peoria, Sun City West, Avondale, Glendale, or Phoenix, or call us at (623) 208-5305 for more information.