4 Things You Must Know About Atrial Fibrillation

May 7th 2016

While minor episodes of atrial fibrillation are typically not considered dangerous, chronic forms of the condition can put individuals at risk for a variety of medical complications, including sudden death. Understanding the signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation and seeking immediate medical attention can help minimize life-threatening complications and allow sufferers to safely manage their conditions.

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness and low energy. Individuals with the condition may also experience a keen awareness of the heart beating inside the chest. Additional symptoms include stomach discomfort and chest tightness. Episodes of atrial fibrillation can last between one minute and several hours.

Causes

Atrial fibrillation is most commonly caused by heart structure abnormalities or heart damage due to illness and lifestyle habits. Factors that can contribute to atrial fibrillation include previous heart attacks, high blood pressure, malfunctioning of the heart sinus, lung disease and sleep apnea. Individuals who drink caffeinated beverages in excess and those who smoke cigarettes are also at risk of developing the condition.

Complications

Approximately 70 percent of those with atrial fibrillation are likely to suffer from fatal strokes, explains Everyday Health. Additional complications that can arise from uncontrolled atrial fibrillation include weakened heart muscles, blood clots and poor blood circulation.

Treatment

Treatments for atrial fibrillation include blood-thinning medications to prevent blood clots, medications to balance out the heart rate and low-dose shock treatments to regulate heart rhythms. Individuals with chronic atrial fibrillation may also be treated with pacemakers to ensure their heartbeat remains balanced at all times.

Conclusion

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart chambers beat erratically, which can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and increase the risk of blood clot formation. The condition is not considered life-threatening, as episodes tend to come and go throughout a person's lifetime, but symptoms that persist may require medical intervention.

Sources

WebMD.com "Atrial fibrillation and stroke" http://www.webmd.com/heart/atrial-fibrillation-stroke-11/symptom-guide
EverydayHealth.com "Complications of atrial fibrillation" http://www.everydayhealth.com/atrial-fibrillation/complications/
MayoClinic.org "Atrial fibrillation: Causes" http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/basics/causes/con-20027014
NHLBI.nih.gov "How is atrial fibrillation treated?" http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/af/treatment

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