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. The main problem with atrial fibrillation is that it significantly increases your risk of having a stroke, so receiving early diagnosis and proper care can be life-saving. Board-certified cardiologist Ramon Castello MD, FACC, FASE of CardioHealth in Jacksonville, Florida specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of cardiac arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation. Call or book your appointment online today.
Atrial fibrillation — which is also called Afib or AF — is one of the most common types of cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat.
It occurs when the upper chambers of your heart contract erratically and rapidly (often more than 300 beats per minute), making your pulse either irregularly fast or slow.
This may lead to palpitations or sensations of a racing heartbeat or a kind of flip-flop feeling in your chest. Quite often there are no symptoms, which becomes problematic since the risk for stroke is the same with or without symptoms.
Common symptoms include:
Atrial fibrillation is classified based on how long it lasts. 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. You can have just one episode in your lifetime, or you can have daily episodes.
The abnormal rhythm comes and goes and alternates with the normal rhythm.
With this condition, the irregular heartbeat can last as long as several weeks. Although it may eventually subside on its own, medication or electrical shocks can re-establish a normal heart rhythm.
Having permanent atrial fibrillation means that you require medication to control your heart rate, 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. Unfortunately, many more people are unaware that they have the condition because it requires an EKG to make the diagnosis.
The primary danger in living with untreated atrial fibrillation is that it makes you up to five times more likely to have a stroke. In fact, atrial fibrillation causes 15-20% of all strokes.
Atrial fibrillation causes strokes by forming blood clots within the cardiac chambers, particularly in a small pouch called the left atrial appendage.
There are two main aspects of treatment: symptom control and stroke prevention treatment. Therefore, 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 restore a normal heart rhythm through low-energy electrical shocks.
Radiofrequency ablation destroys the abnormal heart tissues that are disrupting the electrical signals.
Patients with permanent atrial fibrillation may require a pacemaker in addition to medical treatment.
To learn more about atrial fibrillation, call Dr. Castello’s office today or book an appointment online anytime.