Atrial Fibrillation and Irregular Heartbeat

Chest | Cardiology | Atrial Fibrillation and Irregular Heartbeat (Disease)


Atrial fibrillation are rapid, uncoordinated contractions of the atria, the upper chambers of the heart. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of rapid, irregular heart rate. It most often occurs in people over 60. During atrial fibrillation, the hearts two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly, out of coordination with the two lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. Abnormalities or damage to the hearts structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation.

Causes and Risk factors

Possible causes of atrial fibrillation include: high blood pressure, heart attacks, abnormal heart valves, heart defects youre born with (congenital), an overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalance, exposure to stimulants such as medications, caffeine or tobacco, or to alcohol, sick sinus syndrome (improper functioning of the hearts natural pacemaker), emphysema or other lung diseases, previous heart surgery, viral infections, stress due to pneumonia, surgery or other illnesses, sleep apnea.

Risk factors for atrial fibrillation include: age, heart disease, high blood pressure, other chronic conditions such as thyroid problems, sleep apnea, drinking alcohol and family history. It may cause no symptoms, but it is often associated with palpitations, fainting, chest pain, or congestive heart failure. Those who do have atrial fibrillation symptoms may also experience: decreased blood pressure, weakness, lightheadedness, confusion or shortness of breath. Sometimes atrial fibrillation can lead to some complications. Atrial fibrilation increases the risk of stroke; the degree of stroke risk can be up to seven times that of the average population, depending on the presence of additional risk factors like high blood pressure. Another complication is heart failure.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose atrial fibrillation, tests that involve the following may be taken: Electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitor, event recorder, Echocardiogram, blood tests, chest X-ray.

The main goals of treatment are to prevent circulatory instability and stroke. ...