Is there a permanent cure for AFib
How do I notice atrial fibrillation?
Many patients feel a rapid heartbeat, a racing heart (palpitations) that can last for hours or even longer. Other symptoms are for example tightness or pressure in the chest, tiredness or shortness of breath. Symptoms can disappear when the seizure-like arrhythmias turn into permanent atrial fibrillation. Or they only occur in certain situations.
In a not inconsiderable number of patients, however, atrial fibrillation does not cause any symptoms at all. It is discovered - often late - by chance.
Why can atrial fibrillation be dangerous?
In principle, the occurrence of atrial fibrillation does not represent an acute danger. If left untreated, however, the disease can have serious consequences. The irregular pumping movements of the atria lead to the fact that more blood clots form in the heart. If such a clot is washed into the circulation and blocks a cerebral artery, a stroke is the result. To prevent this from happening, preventive treatment with anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners, is recommended for most patients. Heart failure can also develop as a long-term consequence of the permanently high heart rate.
Often atrial fibrillation occurs as a result of aging and high blood pressure. Existing heart diseases such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, and valvular heart disease can also lead to atrial fibrillation. Factors that favor atrial fibrillation are: obesity, diabetes, an overactive thyroid, as well as high alcohol consumption and certain substances such as cocaine. Sometimes atrial fibrillation occurs in people with healthy hearts for no apparent reason.
How do you diagnose atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation can often be suspected based on the symptoms after extensive questioning. The diagnosis is confirmed with the resting ECG and, in case of doubt, with a long-term ECG.
The treatment of atrial fibrillation includes three possible measures:
- Anticoagulant (blood thinning): To prevent clots from forming in the heart, most patients require blood-thinning medication. If therapy with blood thinners is very difficult or not possible, an atrial appendage closure is recommended. A small umbrella inserted via a catheter seals the area in the left atrium where blood clots often develop.
- Frequency control: Medicines are used to lower the increased heart rate, i.e. the pulse. If the heart rate lowering medication is insufficient, there is the possibility of catheter ablation, in which the AV node is obliterated. The procedure involves the implantation of a pacemaker.
- Rhythm control: If the symptoms are severe or if heart failure develops, an attempt is made to convert the atrial fibrillation into a normal sinus rhythm. Such rhythm control can be achieved in three ways: treatment with drugs (antiarrhythmics), electrical cardioversion, and in some cases catheter ablation, in which the pulmonary vein is isolated.
The most important risk factor for arrhythmias is age. Of course, that can't be changed. However, a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of an arrhythmia. This includes giving up smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation, because alcohol and smoking make the heart beat faster than normal. Regular physical activity is also essential for prevention. It helps prevent obesity and high blood pressure.
The dangers of atrial fibrillation and the treatment options.
Where can I get more information?
The family doctor or the cardiologist are your contacts in the event of a cardiac arrhythmia. If you have specific questions, our heart phone or our Internet advice will help you.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder. In contrast to other diseases in which the heart gets out of step, it is not so much the rhythm disturbance itself that is dangerous, but the possible consequences such as stroke or heart failure. The brochure describes the different forms of atrial fibrillation, their symptoms and types of treatment.
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