What should I do if I have Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?

Atrial fibrillation or AFib is a type of cardiac arrhythmia, or heart rhythm disorder.  It is an electrical problem with the heart.  It affects about 3 million Americans, and is the most common arrhythmia seen today.

The normal electrical system of the heart is a very organized system.  However, in AFib, the electrical system of the upper chambers of the heart becomes chaotic or disorganized, which then causes the bottom chambers to beat irregularly.

AFib results in a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, and heart failure.

How does AFib cause stroke?

  • The blood in the upper chambers of the heart does not flow well because of the quivering motion. As a result, blood clots can form in the heart, and sometimes break off and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.
  • Patients with AFib are at a 5 times higher risk of stroke compared to other patients. This clot and stroke risk is why patients are on blood thinners or anticoagulation.

What are the symptoms of Afib?

  • Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, are palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, fatigue, or chest discomfort.
  • Palpitations can be described as flip-flopping of the heart, skipping beats, or sensation of pounding in the chest.
  • Often patients have worsening shortness of breath with activity or exercise. Sometimes patients have no symptoms.

How is Afib diagnosis made?

  • Diagnosis of atrial fibrillation is performed with electrocardiograms (EKGs or ECGs), wearable heart monitors, or implantable loop recorders.
  • There are also some devices commercially available, such as the Kardia device or AppleWatch, that can help diagnose AFib or other arrhythmias.

What are the treatment options for Afib?

  • There are various treatments for atrial fibrillation.
  • These include reducing the risk of stroke with blood thinners and sometimes devices implanted in the heart.
  • Antiarrhythmic medications are sometimes used to suppress the disorganized electrical system in AFib.
  • Catheter ablation is a highly effective invasive procedure performed by Electrophysiologists to target and destroy the abnormal electrical signals in the heart.

Contact Virginia Arrhythmia Consultants at 804-410-9749 if you have atrial fibrillation or AFib.  We will discuss and provide a personalized care plan using a compassionate, state of the art, and high quality approach for your AFib.