Atrial Fibrillation – Should You Be Worried?
It’s always worrisome to get a new diagnosis, especially when it has to do with your heart. A common heart condition that you may have heard of is atrial fibrillation, or AFib. Afib is more common than many think – seen in over 200,000 patients a year – but many more may go undiagnosed. AFib is not life threatening in and of itself, but if it goes unnoticed and unmanaged it can cause other, more serious heart conditions to develop.
What is AFib?
Atrial fibrillation occurs when you develop a fast, irregular heartbeat starting in the upper chambers, atria, of your heart. This causes the atria to be out of sync with the lower chambers, or ventricles. AFib can go unnoticed in some patients, but symptoms can include palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, lightheadedness or dizziness, chest pain, or a reduced endurance while exercising. AFib can be mild and occasional, or a chronic, lifelong condition.
When to see a doctor
A general rule of thumb is that you should always consult a doctor when you experience any type of heart rhythm irregularity. If you have a family history of heart conditions, you should be proactive to see a cardiologist or electrophysiologist to prevent or diagnose any irregularities that might otherwise go unnoticed.
If AFib is suspected, your doctor will order tests to confirm the diagnosis. Tests include an EKG, which gives your cardiologist or electrophysiologist a snapshot of the heart’s electrical signals at one point in time. However, many patients will require longer-term monitoring in the form of a Holter monitor, event monitor or loop recorder that can process more data and send it back to us for evaluation.
How worried should you be?
Once you are in the care of a qualified electrophysiologist, you shouldn’t be overly worried about your condition, but you should understand the risks of not treating AFib in its early stages. Further, speak to your electrophysiologist about the various treatment options available, which will likely include lifestyle changes, medication management and potentially a minimally invasive procedure to ablate tissue in the heart causing the irregular heart rhythm. Ultimately, Afib is a very treatable condition in its earlier stages and most patients go on to enjoy a life free of Afib. Patients who have a high risk of stroke may also be recommended for Left Atrial Appendage closure, which significantly reduces the risk of stroke associated with Afib.
The bottom line
If you are experiencing symptoms of AFib, schedule an appointment with our electrophysiologists as soon as possible. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the less chance you have of more serious complications. Heart House is a comprehensive cardiology practice located in Southern New Jersey that is committed to patient-focused care for various heart conditions.