The heart is the engine of our body and unfortunately enough, heart ailments are the leading cause of fatality among people as statistically observed in 2019.
Through this article, we are going to talk about one such heart condition known as an afib heart condition which might not be life-threatening as it seems but can lead to severe complications and even death if left untreated.
Curious to know more, continue reading the article then as we share with you all the details.
What is an afib heart?
Atrial fibrillation (afib) is a medical condition in which irregular and rapid heartbeats are observed which increases the risk of heart failures, strokes, and other heart-related ailments.
Afib heart complication is not a life-threatening condition but it is a serious medical condition that requires continuous medical care. Recurrent occurrences of episodes of afib can come and go but sometimes someone may even develop atrial fibrillation that does not go away and that requires constant treatment.
During afib, the upper two chambers of a heartbeat out of coordination than the lower two chambers of the heart and that leads to complications which increases the risk of fatality in the future.
One of the major complications of afib is the development of blood clots in the upper chambers of the heart which starts to circulate to other parts of the body and leads to blocked blood flow or as medically known as ischemia.
Atrial fibrillation can be classified into four different categories:
- Occasional- Also known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, in this condition, the symptoms come and go and usually last for a few minutes.
- Persistent- In this condition, the heartbeat does not go back to normal without treatments like an electrical shock or some other medications.
- Long-standing persistent– This afib heart is a continuous condition and this can stay up to 12 months.
- Permanent- As the name suggests, in this afib heart condition, the normal beating of the heart cannot be restored. A person needs continuous medications and treatments to control the heart rate and prevent blood clots.
What are the causes of an afib heart?
To understand the cause of an afib heart, we have to first understand the working of the heart and how its irregularity in working leads to the development of the medical condition.
Our heart is made up of four chambers:
- two upper chambers as known as atria
- two lower chambers as known as ventricles
In the right chamber of the heart which is the right atrium, there is a group of cells present which is known as the sinus node that acts as the heart’s natural pacemaker.
The function of the sinus node is to produce the signal that starts each heartbeat. In normal conditions, the signal travels through the upper two heart chambers and via the connecting pathway atrioventricular node, the signal then travels to the ventricles. This is the movement that causes the heart to pump blood to other parts of the heart and body.
Now for a person affected with atrial fibrillation, the signals in the upper parts of the heart are chaotic which causes the connecting pathway between the atrium and ventricles to be bombarded with impulses which causes the rapid and irregular heartbeat and development of blood clots.
Now coming to the causes of an afib heart, listed down below are some of the possible causes:
- Abnormalities or damage to the heart structure
- Heart ailments or previous heart surgeries
- Congenital heart defects that a person are born with
- Overactive thyroid gland and metabolic imbalance
- Continuous exposure to strong stimulants over time
- Suffering from sick sinus syndrome
- Viral infections, stress, and sleep apnea
Factors like age, alcohol consumption, obesity, family history, and other chronic conditions can also increase the risk of an afib heart.
Symptoms of an afib heart
Most people affected with afib heart condition do not suffer from any symptoms at all and most of them remain unaware of their medical condition until it is diagnosed in medical evaluation.
However, with thorough research and studies, the following list of symptoms has been identified which can help someone to detect afib in the early stages which with the help of proper treatment and medication can be controlled.
- Palpitations i.e., experiencing rapid, uncontrollable, or irregular heartbeats
- Experiencing a flip-flopping movement in the chest
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Fatigue and weakness
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Shortness breath
- Chest pain
Also read: What Are The Causes Of Heart Palpitations?
If someone experiences chest pain, one should immediately rush to the nearest hospital as the pain could be a signal that the person might be experiencing a heart attack.
Complications of an afib heart
- The chaotic rhythm of the heartbeat leads to blood pooling in the upper chambers of the heart causing blood clots to form. These blood clots are extremely dangerous for the health as they can travel to the other parts of the body and lead to blockage of blood at that body part causing severe complications.
- As mentioned earlier, an afib heart blocks blood flow which increases the risk of strokes.
Development of an afib heart following open-heart surgery is a common occurrence and if the condition is not properly treated, it puts the patient at an increased risk of strokes, congestive heart failure, and hemodynamic instability.
Patients with afib after open-heart surgery should be immediately rushed to the intensive care unit for proper treatments and medications.
- People suffering from long-term persistent and permanent afib heart condition should have their heartbeats always in control, as if properly not treated can weaken the heart and cause heart failure.
Treatments for an afib heart
Treatment for an afib heart depends on the following conditions:
- on how long the condition has the patient been suffering from
- on how grave the symptoms are and what type of afib condition is the affected suffering from
- upon determining the underlying cause of the afib condition
The treatment goals for atrial fibrillation are:
- Preventing blood clots
- Resetting the heart rhythm and controlling the heartbeat
- To reset heart rhythms, the process of cardioversion is performed on the affected which is done either by electrical cardioversion or by medicated drugs.
- To maintain normal heart rhythm, antiarrhythmic medications like dofetilide, flecainide, propafenone, etc are used
- Heart medications for afib heart rate control are digoxin, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers
- To prevent blood clots, warfarin and anticoagulant are used.
If the above-mentioned measures cannot control the condition, surgical procedures like catheter ablation, maze procedures, and atrioventricular node ablation are performed.
Now there you go. Hopefully, the article was able to solve all the queries regarding an afib heart condition. As mentioned earlier, it is not life-threatening but needs continuous medical treatments, therefore upon observing the symptoms, consult your medical provider immediately.