Atrial Fibrillation

If you’ve been diagnosed with the heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation (AF) and it hasn’t responded to medication or non-surgical procedures, Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular can offer a solution.

Here’s an overview of what this condition is and why treatment is so important:

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). It occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers – the atria – to contract very fast and irregularly (fibrillate), and out of synch with the heart’s lower two chambers (ventricles). This results in a rapid, irregular heartbeat.

There are three types of AF:

  • Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation – The faulty electrical signals and rapid heart rate begin suddenly then stop on their own within about a week, and usually in less than 24 hours.
  • Persistent atrial fibrillation – A condition in which the abnormal heart rhythm continues for more than a week. It may stop on its own, or it can be stopped with treatment.
  • Permanent atrial fibrillation – A condition in which a normal heart rhythm can’t be restored with treatment. Both paroxysmal and persistent AF may become more frequent and, over time, result in permanent AF.

What causes atrial fibrillation?

AF is caused by damage to the heart’s electrical system. This most often is the result of other conditions that affect heart health, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Inflammation may also contribute to AF. The risk of AF increases with age.

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

While some people with AF do not feel symptoms, others may notice:

  • Palpitations (the sensation that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or fast)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or problems exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety

Why treatment for atrial fibrillation is necessary

Left untreated, atrial fibrillation can lead to stroke and heart failure, which is why accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment are so important.

Learn more about the treatment options for atrial fibrillation that are available at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular Center.