A heart disorder occurs when a person frequently has episodes of irregular heartbeat. The heart often beats quickly while exercising, engaging in strenuous physical activity, etc. Still, an increase in heart rate without apparent cause is a sign of some cardiac conditions, such as atrial fibrillation 

When you are at rest, a typical heart rate should be steady, between 60 and 100 beats per minute. You may determine your heart rate by feeling your pulse in your wrist or neck. If it feels faster more often, then you should consult a doctor. In this article, we will discover what atrial fibrillation is. What are its symptoms? How to diagnose and treat this condition? And what causes such heart problems?  

What is Atrial fibrillation?

The atria beat irregularly because the sinus node fails to provide a proper signal to the Atria (upper heart chambers). Sinus nodes are cells in the heart responsible for providing signals for the heartbeat to the upper and lower chambers of the heart. It is responsible for producing a regular heartbeat, but conditions like atrial fibrillation can occur when it fails. The heartbeat rate in atrial fibrillation is 100 to 175, much faster than the normal heart rate. 

Symptoms 

Following are symptoms of atrial fibrillation:

  • Irregular heartbeat 
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty in performing daily activities 

All such symptoms can be in the form of an episode, or some symptoms tend to stay long-term with a patient. The last stage of Atrial fibrillation is when irregular heartbeats become a permanent symptom, this condition is not curable, but medications are used to prevent severe outcomes like clotting. 

Atrial fibrillation can cause some severe symptoms as well. If you feel any of the signs, immediately dial 911 or get medical help as soon as possible:

  • Difficulty in seeing 
  • Blood in stool and urine
  • A problem in moving limbs
  • Severe headache
  • Severe chest pain
  • Off balance etc.

All of these symptoms can be a sign of having an atrial fibrillation attack or brain injury. 

Causes

There could be several possible reasons behind conditions like atrial fibrillation, such as:

  • Structural problems in a heart
  • Heart Attack 
  • CHDs
  • Hypertension 
  • Prior heart surgery
  • Heart valve problems 
  • Thyroid diseases 
  • Lung issues
  • Infections 

Risk Factors

Certain factors make a person more susceptible to atrial fibrillation. Such factors are as follows:

  • Medical History

A person’s medical history can make him more susceptible to atrial fibrillation, especially if he suffers from other heart diseases like high blood pressure, CHDs, thyroid and lung issues, metabolic issues, etc. A person who has undergone heart surgery will be more at risk of atrial fibrillation.  

Genes play a role in most heart diseases like atrial fibrillation etc. If you have this condition in your family, you’re at high risk of having it. Make sure to take measures to prevent it.  

  • Unhealthy lifestyle 

An unhealthy lifestyle can play a critical factor in developing several diseases, including atrial fibrillation. A person who smokes eats unhealthily and does not exercise enough exposes himself to the risk of having heart disease. Such unhealthy behaviors cause obesity which is the mother of all diseases. Make sure to alter your lifestyle and adopt healthy habits to avoid infections. 

  • Age 

Age is one of the most critical factors in developing atrial fibrillation. Older people have a high risk of developing atrial fibrillation and other heart diseases.  

Complications

A hazardous side effect of atrial fibrillation resulting in stroke is blood clots. 

Blood can build up and form clots in the heart’s upper chambers due to the irregular cardiac rhythm associated with atrial fibrillation. A blood clot can bring on a stroke in the left upper chamber that escapes from the heart and travels to the brain. 

As you become older, atrial fibrillation raises your risk of stroke. Your risk of a stroke may also be increased by certain medical disorders, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and valvular heart conditions. Blood thinners are frequently administered to atrial fibrillation patients to prevent blood clots and strokes. 

Diagnosis

To diagnose atrial fibrillation in a person doctor will inquire about medical history and symptoms and will perform different tests. Some of the tests are as follows:

ECG

Electrocardiography, or ECG, is a shorthand for the procedure that assesses the condition of the heart. Doctors analyze the heart’s electrical system by measuring the heartbeat rate and other parameters when electrodes are applied to the chest. This technique is typically painless and has no side effects.

Event recorder:

Even when patients are not in the hospital and performing daily activities, they must wear the gadget to monitor their heart condition. Patients wear it for a few days while their heart rates are observed. If the patient exhibits any unusual symptoms of a heart condition, the event recorder will pick up on it. 

Holter Monitor

It is the same device as an event recorder. However, it is only used sometimes. It is employed to monitor the patient’s heartbeat. Doctors may advise using this gadget to monitor heart health for longer if an ECG cannot identify a cardiac condition. For one or two days, doctors recommend it. The device is made to be worn while performing daily tasks. To help them grasp the issue better, doctors advise their patients to monitor their heart rate and report it to them. 

Echocardiography

This test is a common approach to evaluating the condition of the heart. This test is conducted by passing sound waves into the test subject’s heart while drawing an image of their heart on a computer screen. To determine the precise source of a patient’s cardiac problems, doctors evaluate the anatomy and function of the heart. This examination is typically conducted in conjunction with other medical exams. 

EP

EP stands for electrophysiology, a process where the heart pumps a tube through blood arteries. These tubes have cameras or sensors attached, which capture electrical impulses and display images and heart activity on a computer screen. It is another test to examine the condition of the heart and identify the precise issue. 

Blood test

Blood tests are performed to check potassium and thyroid hormones, which can cause atrial fibrillation.  

Treatment 

Atrial fibrillation is usually treated with medications or surgical treatment. Medicine includes

 blood thinners, potassium blockers, etc. At the same time, surgical treatment can consist of vein ablation, permanent pacemaker, electrical cardioversion, etc.

 

References 

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16765-atrial-fibrillation-afib

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atrial-fibrillation/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms-causes/syc-2035062