If you’ve ever had an irregular, rapid heart rate that feels as though your heart is fluttering in your chest, you may have experienced atrial fibrillation. Because atrial fibrillation significantly increases your risk of having a stroke, receiving proper care can be lifesaving. Board-certified cardiologist Ramon Castello MD, FACC, FASE of CardioHealth in Jacksonville, Florida specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of cardiac arrhythmia, including atrial fibrillation. Call or book your appointment online today.
Atrial fibrillation, which is also called Afib or AF, is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat.
It occurs when haphazard electrical signals cause the upper chambers of your heart to contract erratically and rapidly (often more than 300 beats per minute).
This often leads to palpitating heart symptoms that may include sensations of a racing heartbeat or a kind of flip-flop feeling in your chest. Other common symptoms include:
For people with mild atrial fibrillation, symptoms may be so minor or infrequent that they go unnoticed.
Atrial fibrillation is classified based on how long it lasts and whether it requires treatment to be corrected. The three main types of atrial fibrillation are:
Also called occasional atrial fibrillation, this form of the condition typically causes symptoms that may last for a few minutes or a few hours, but they subside on their own.
With this condition, the racing heartbeat can last as long as a week. Although it may eventually subside on its own, it’s best to treat persistent atrial fibrillation with medication or electrical shocks to re-establish a normal heart rhythm.
Having permanent atrial fibrillation means that you require medication to control your heartbeat, but the treatment can’t help you restore a normal heart rhythm.
Both paroxysmal and persistent atrial fibrillation can eventually become permanent.
Nearly 3 million people in the United States have received an atrial fibrillation diagnosis, but experts believe that many more people are simply unaware that they have the condition.
The primary danger in living with untreated atrial fibrillation is that it makes you five times more likely to have a stroke. In fact, 15-20% of all strokes are caused by atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation makes it hard for your heart to move blood fully from chamber to chamber, which increases your risk of blood clots.
The specific treatment approach used to address atrial fibrillation depends on its underlying cause, as well as the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
If Dr. Castello can identify an underlying health condition such as coronary heart disease (CHD), he begins treatment by addressing it. He also assesses lifestyle factors that contribute to heart arrhythmias, such as being overweight or having high blood pressure and helps you develop a detailed plan to make healthy changes.
Treatment for atrial fibrillation typically includes taking medications to help prevent blood clots, control your heart rate, and restore a normal heart rhythm.
For patients with persistent atrial fibrillation, electrical cardioversion can help trigger a normal heart rhythm through low-energy electrical shocks.
Catheter ablation, which uses radiofrequency energy to destroy the abnormal heart tissues that are disrupting electrical signals, is another possible treatment option.
Patients with permanent atrial fibrillation may require a pacemaker, defibrillator, or cardiac resynchronization pacemaker.
To learn more about atrial fibrillation, call Dr. Castello’s office today or book an appointment online anytime.