Tachycardia/Atrial Fibrillation

Overview of Tachycardia/Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation or AFib is the irregular rhythm of the heart. It can be a temporary or permanent condition. AFib usually occurs in older people and rarely in children.

Atrial Fibrillation or AFib is the type of irregular or quivering heartbeat also known as an arrhythmia that leads to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other complications.
During AFib, the atria beat irregularly and out of coordination with the ventricles. This can cause palpitations, shortness of breath, and extreme weakness.
Atrial fibrillation may not need immediate treatment and may come and go. It is a serious condition but not necessarily life-threatening. Blood clots formed due to AFib can block blood flow.

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Signs and Symptoms of Tachycardia/Atrial Fibrillation

AFib symptoms include:

 

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness

 

Types of Tachycardia/Atrial Fibrillation

The type of atrial fibrillation on the basis of the duration of AFib and the underlying cause of the condition is as follows:

  • Paroxysmal Fibrillation

This type of AFib happens a few times a year, the heart returns to its normal rhythm on its own or with intervention. This type can turn into permanent AFib as well.

  • Persistent AFib

If arrhythmia lasts more than a week (7 days), it is defined as persistent AFib. This type requires treatment; without it the rhythm does not return to normal on its own.

  • Long-standing AFib

If arrhythmia lasts more than a year or 12 months it is considered long-standing AFib.

  • Permanent AFib

Permanent arrhythmia lasts indefinitely and no further treatment is given to maintain the normal sinus rhythm.

  • Nonvalvular AFib

 

This type of atrial fibrillation is not caused by a heart valve or its issues.

 

Causes of Tachycardia/Atrial Fibrillation

AFib is caused by the irregular rhythm of the two upper chambers of the heart. The heart beats at a range of 100 to 175 beats per minute while the normal range is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Risk factors include:

  • Advanced age
  • Hypertension
  • Underlying heart condition
  • Alcohol
  • Family history
  • Previous heart conditions or surgery
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Heart attack
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Obesity
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Risk Factors of Tachycardia/Atrial Fibrillation

Given below are the risk factors that can increase the chances of this disease:

  • Cardiac Issues

People who are suffering from any heart disease such as congenital heart condition, heart failure or chronic artery disease have an increased chance of atrial fibrillation.

  • High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases the risk of cardiac issues because the blood pumps at a pressure that is higher than normal.

  • Chronic Health Conditions

Chronic conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis, and renal issues can make a person more susceptible to acquiring this disease.

People who are obese are more prone to the onset of atrial fibrillation. That is why it is often advised to patients that they should maintain a healthy weight.

  • Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption also increases the chance of atrial fibrillation.

  • Family History or Genetics

Cardiac issues are more common in people who have a significant disease history of such medical conditions.

  • Thyroid Issues

People can also suffer from atrial fibrillation due to thyroid problems.

  • Age

 With age, the arteries tend to narrow down due to the deposition of fatty acids. This condition increases the risk of atrial fibrillation.

Complications of Atrial Fibrillation

There are several complications of atrial fibrillation. Some of them are:

 

  • Formation of blood clots
  • Chaotic heart rhythm can lead to the formation of blood clots in the arteries. The blood clot can detach and then travel to the brain. This can lead to stroke.
  • A person may also suffer from hypertension
  • Cardiac issues
  • Valvular heart conditions
  • Diabetes

 

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Prevention

Healthy lifestyle choices can prevent the onset of atrial fibrillation. Some other preventive strategies are as follows:

  • Consume a balanced and healthy diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Keep the level of caffeine in check
  • Try to manage stress and deal with your anger issues
  • Engage more in physical activities
  • Make sure to maintain a healthy weight
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Diagnosis

Signs and symptoms are monitored and a physical exam is conducted. Other tests include:

Treatment of Tachycardia/Atrial Fibrillation | When to Consult a Doctor

Treatment options include:

  • Medications
  • Nonsurgical Methods
  • Surgical Procedures
  1. Medications

Medications are helpful for many individuals. There may be side effects to the medication. Do not discontinue medication without consulting with a doctor. 

  • Anticoagulants 

Blood-thinning medications are given to prevent clotting that can lead to a stroke. This includes warfarin and other new anticoagulants. Anticoagulants also increase the risk of bleeding.  

  • Beta-Blockers

These are given to slow the heart rate. This can improve functioning in many individuals. 

  • Calcium Channel Blockers

These have multiple effects on the heart. They slow the heart rate and reduce muscle cell contraction strength. 

Other medications include:

  • Sodium channel blockers
  • Potassium channel blockers
  1. Nonsurgical Methods

Nonsurgical methods include:

  • Electro Cardioversion

Electric shock is given to the patient using paddles or patches. This can reset the heart to a normal rhythm.

  • Radiofrequency or Catheter Ablation

Ablation is used when medications and electro cardioversion do not work as the most effective treatment. A catheter is used to map the heart and the activity throughout the heart.

  1. Surgical Procedures

Surgical procedures include:

  • Pacemakers

The pacemaker is an electrical device implanted in the body. It sends out electrical signals to keep a steady rhythm.

  • Open-heart Maze Procedure

It is a complex procedure where scar tissues interfere with the transmission of electrical impulses that can cause AFib.

 

If symptoms of arrhythmia are felt, a doctor needs to be consulted. It is better to get a proper exam done by a Cardiologist and start treatment if needed.