Atrial fibrillation is a cardiac disorder that is characterized by irregular and unusually fast heartbeats. Under normal circumstances, the heart rate of a resting heart is between 60-100 beats per minute. However, in this condition, the heart rate can be significantly higher than 100 beats a minute. Atrial fibrillation initiates in the upper two chambers of the heart known as atria which experience palpitations or beats erratically. Such unusual function prevents the blood to pump efficiently into the ventricles. This can affect the overall health of the heart and can intensify the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation
It is quite common to experience fast or irregular heartbeat now and then, so it could be a bit tricky to diagnose a condition like atrial fibrillation. Therefore, you should know about some of its fibrillation symptoms.
- Trouble while breathing
- Pain or heaviness in the chest
- Excessive perspiration
- Abdominal pain
These symptoms mentioned above can be mild, moderate or severe and can continue for several minutes and hours. In a handful of cases, one might suffer chronic atrial fibrillation which makes these symptoms continue. At times, some patients may not project any signs associated with atrial fibrillation. Some of the stated symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack. During such crises, it is imperative that you get medical help immediately.
Diagnosis of atrial fibrillation symptoms
Along with assessing your signs and symptoms, your doctor might recommend any of these following diagnostic tests for confirming atrial fibrillation:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
This diagnostic procedure makes use of tiny sensors which are attached to your arms and chest. It detects and documents electrical signals as they move through the heart.
This test uses sound waves and creates a video of the heart on a monitor. These sound waves are guided at your heart with the help of a transducer, a wand-like device. This method can even help spot any underlying cardiovascular disorder. In some cases, the doctors can also implement transesophageal echocardiography where they guide a flexible catheter with a transducer down the esophagus. This allows your cardiologist to get a better view of the heart and its surrounding organs.
- Event recorder
This is a portable ECG (electrocardiogram) device that aims to review your heart activity for a specific period (few weeks to months). You are required to activate it when you sense that your heart rate is accelerating.
- Holter monitor
Like an event recorder, this device is a portable ECG device too. It can be strapped to your shoulder or belt or simply carried in the pocket. It evaluates your heart’s functions for a day or more.
- Chest X-ray
An X-ray projects any possible issues arising in your lungs and heart which might be responsible for the onset of this condition.
- Stress test
Also referred as an exercise test, a stress test comprises running evaluations on the heart while you are working out.
- Blood test
If you are suffering from any other type of problem, then a blood test can help the doctor to pinpoint the exact cause of it.
Risk factors for atrial fibrillation
A person of any age or gender can develop the condition of atrial fibrillation. However, the risk of having this condition increases with age. So, it’s common to see many elderly people dealing with this disorder. Following are some factors that can magnify the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
- Age: Although this condition can affect anyone, it is more likely to occur among adults.
- Cardiovascular disorders: If a person is suffering from any heart disease then it can increase the chances of acquiring atrial fibrillation. Heart surgery can often trigger symptoms of this condition.
- High blood pressure: Having a chronic case of high blood pressure which is poorly managed can boost the possibility of atrial fibrillation.
- Alcohol: Persistent consumption of alcohol in heavy amounts can also contribute to atrial fibrillation.
- Family history: If a close family member has dealt with atrial fibrillation in the past, it dramatically surges your chances too.
- Sleep apnea: Even though there is no substantial evidence demonstrating that sleep apnea causes atrial fibrillation, several research studies link both these disorders. In many cases, after treating sleep apnea, there has been a significant improvement in the condition of atrial fibrillation.
- Athletes: A widespread health condition among athletes, atrial fibrillation can be caused due to rapid heart rate known as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).
Apart from the risk factors mentioned above, individuals who are at a higher risk for atrial fibrillation might have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and hyperthyroidism.