Atrial Fibrillation / Afib
Atrial fibrillation also known as Afib is the most common irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia in the United States and around the world. Afib occurs when errant electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart known as the atria create a very fast heartbeat, which cannot be matched by the lower chambers, known as the ventricles. This irregular heartbeat can often put a patient in the emergency room believing that they are having a heart attack. Even mild or occasional episodes can be bothersome at best and debilitating at worst. Virtually all symptomatic cases of Afib interfere with a person’s life and lifestyle.
Afib and Its Associated Risks
When we treat atrial fibrillation, there’s certainly a comfort component to the procedure – making the patient’s life a little easier and relieving the discomfort of Afib. However, we are more concerned medically about the very much increased risk of stroke, heart attack and over the long term, heart failure. In fact, patients with Afib have a five-times higher risk of stroke and heart attack than patients that do not have this condition. Alongside treatment for Afib itself, Dr. Tordini may suggest closure of the left atrial appendage or LAA, the primary source of clotted blood that causes stroke. Learn more about stroke risk and Afib.
The Symptoms of Afib
The symptoms of Afib range from none at all to debilitating. Indeed, some patients have silent Afib which is completely asymptomatic. While their heart is in a fib, they do not feel it its effects. However, silent Afib is just as dangerous as symptomatic Afib and must be addressed. If patients do have symptoms, they may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Very fast heartbeat healing
- Significant tiredness
Patients with diagnosed, but un- or under-treated Afib also experience profound anxiety. Because episodes of Afib can be so powerful and unnerving, patients are often waiting for their next episode and modify their lifestyle with the expectation that another episode is imminent.
Why We Need to Treat Afib
In the early stages of Afib, if symptoms are mild, many patients are not terribly concerned about their symptoms. However, it is important to remember that it does increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure. That’s why speaking to a qualified electrophysiologist like Dr. Tordini early on is truly important. As it progresses and worsens, it becomes harder to treat and our interventions become less effective.
If you have been feeling the effects of a fast heartbeat such as palpitations or feeling like your chest is beating out of your heart, we would like to see you at our office and discuss how to best manage what could be Afib. Of course, if you are having any symptoms of a heart attack or any other symptoms of emergent cardiovascular issues, please visit the nearest emergency room or call 911 immediately.