Heart & Vascular

Atrial Fibrillation (Irregular Heartbeat)

Atrial Fibrillation (Irregular Heartbeat)

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). AFib happens when the heart's electrical signals don't travel through the heart in a normal way. Instead, they become very rapid and disorganized. These disorganized electrical signals cause the heart's two upper chambers (atria) to fibrillate, or contract very fast and irregularly. In patients with AFib, blood pools in the atria. It isn't pumped completely into the heart's two lower chambers (ventricles). As a result, the heart's upper and lower chambers don't work together as they should.

Symptoms, medical complications, and treatment options vary among individuals.

Patient Story: A Life Without AFib

  • Types of AFib

    • Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation - In paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, the faulty electrical signals and rapid heart rate begin suddenly and then stop on their own. Symptoms can be mild or severe. They stop within about a week, but usually in less than 24 hours.
    • Persistent Atrial Fibrillation - Persistent AFib is a condition in which the abnormal heart rhythm continues for more than a week. It may stop on its own, or it can be stopped with treatment.
    • Permanent Atrial Fibrillation - Permanent AFib is a condition in which a normal heart rhythm can't be restored with treatment. Both paroxysmal and persistent AFib may become more frequent and, over time, result in permanent AFib.

    As a patient of Doylestown Health's AFib Center, you will receive a personalized treatment plan based on the type of AFib you are experiencing, your symptoms and your past medical history.

    Learn more about Doylestown Health's AFib Center

  • Atrial Fibrillation Risk Factors

    The two main complications from AFib are stroke and heart failure. AFib is also more common in someone who is having a heart attack or just had surgery. A person with untreated AFib is five-to-six times more likely to have a stroke than the general population. Researchers estimate that 35% of patients with AFib will suffer a stroke (unless treated). Heart failure occurs if the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs for blood and oxygen.

    Certain factors may increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Those factors include:

    If you have any questions about atrial fibrillation risk factors, talk with your doctor.

  • AFib Screening and Diagnosis

    AFib screening includes a physical exam. Your doctor will ask you about your:

    • Family medical history
    • Health habits
    • Medical history
    • Symptoms

    In addition, there are several AFib screening tests that check for an irregular or fast heartbeat. These diagnostic tests include:

    Knowing the cause of your AFib will help your doctor determine the best way to treat it. Let your doctor know if you have any questions.

  • AFib Symptoms

    Those who do have atrial fibrillation symptoms may experience:

    • Chest pain, pressure or tightness
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness, lightheadness or fainting
    • Fast or irregular pulse
    • Feeling overtired or lacking energy
    • Frequent need to urinate
    • Palpitations (you feel like your heart is skipping a beat, racing or fluttering)
    • Shortness of breath
    • Weakness or difficulty performing everyday activity or exercises
  • AFib Treatment

    Doylestown Healths AFib Center offers a broad range of tailored AFib therapies including:

    As a patient, you will receive an AFib treatment plan that is tailored just for you.

    Why AFib Treatment is Important

    AFib is a major risk factor for stroke and heart failure. According to the National Stroke Association, about 15 percent of all people who suffer a stroke have AFib. People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke.

    Lifestyle changes and medications can control less severe cases of AFib. These changes may include:

    • Avoiding certain cough and cold medications that may increase your risk of an irregular heart rhythm
    • Limiting use of caffeine
    • Limiting your intake of alcohol
    • Quitting smoking.
    • Depending on your condition, you may require additional AFib treatment options.

    Ablations and Other Procedures

    An ablation therapy procedure uses radiofrequency waves to destroy a tiny area of your heart muscle. This stops it from creating the impulses that cause extra heartbeats.

    There are different types of procedures which include:

    Device Therapy: Pacemakers & Defibrillators

    Surgical AFib Treatment

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