Atrial fibrillation treatment

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia; in fact, it is the most common type. It affects about two million people in the United States alone, most of whom are elderly. In someone with atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals that fire off in the atrial, or upper, chambers of the heart are not regular. These chaotic charges also arrive at irregular intervals in the lower heart chambers, the ventricles. Because of this, a person can end up with an irregular and/or rapid heart beat. The top two chambers also beat out of coordination with the lower two chambers. The result is poor blood flow throughout the body, weakness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

The rapid heart beat experienced by those with atrial fibrillation can often be upwards of 175 beats a minute, a major increase over the standard heart rate range of 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Generally, atrial fibrillation is not life-threatening, although it can lead to complications. In some cases, atrial fibrillation can cause severe problems, including stroke and major fatigue. Sometimes, the symptoms of atrial fibrillation come and go, but with other people, it is chronic. It can lead to a medical emergency if not monitored, although again, a person can live their entire life with atrial fibrillation and never suffer more than some shortness of breathe when performing physical activities.

Atrial fibrillation is often caused by changes in the heart caused by things like high blood pressure or heart disease. Other causes of atrial fibrillation include things like a heart attack, being born with abnormal heart valves, having an overactive thyroid, or having a congenital heart defect. Overuse of stimulates like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or some medications can also increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Other risk factors include sleep apnea, stress, viral infections, lung disease, and previous heart surgery. However, it is possible for a person to develop what is called lone atrial fibrillation. The cause of lone atrial fibrillation is unknown, but serious complications rarely arise from it.

Fortunately, there are a number of different treatments for atrial fibrillation. In some cases, if the atrial fibrillation is caused by some other underlying problem, that problem must be address. This includes things like thyroid disorder. Usually, once this underlying condition is treated, the atrial fibrillation vanishes or at least becomes much less noticeable. However, in some cases, atrial fibrillation may need to be treated itself. One type of treatment is to try to reset the rhythm of your heart, control the rate of beating, and work to prevent blood clots from forming.

Resetting your heart’s rhythm can be done in several ways. One way is called electrical cardioversion. This procedure involves providing a shock to your heart via paddles or patches. The shock actually stops the heart’s electrical activity for a moment. When it resumes, it may start beating at a normal rhythm. The other way to do this is to do cardioversion using a type of medication called anti-arrhythmics. These drugs can be taken either orally or intravenously, and it’s often done at a hospital so the doctor can monitor the changes in your heart. If your heart rate returns to normal, you may need to take several other doses of the drug so that atrial fibrillation does not return.

Once you’ve had either form of cardioversion, you will need to take some medication of some sort. These medications will help you maintain your standard heart rate, but they may also have some side effects, including fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. In some very rare cases, they mean lead to a life-threatening condition known as ventricular arrhythmias. However, this does not happen very often.

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Last updated on Feb 21st, 2010 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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