This common heart disorder occurs when electrical signals in the heart become irregular, causing the heart’s upper chamber to beat out of rhythm. Atrial fibrillation requires immediate medical attention because it could lead to a life-threatening stroke.
Atrial fibrillation may or may not cause symptoms. Some people with the disorder can have palpitations, chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, or confusion. The condition is diagnosed through an electrocardiogram, which measures the heart’s electrical impulses.
Approximately 3 million Americans experience atrial fibrillation each year.
In some cases, atrial fibrillation resolves on its own. Other times, an underlying condition such as an over-active thyroid, hypertension, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or heart valve disease must be treated.
Medications may be prescribed to prevent blood clots or control heart rate. Cardioversion, another treatment option, can be recommended to shock the heart back to a normal rhythm by delivering a jolt of electricity to the heart. However, if these efforts are not successful, doctors could recommend atrial fibrillation ablation.