Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm problem. Nearly three million people in the United States have AF and this number is increasing. While it usually occurs in patients who have other heart disease, it also is frequently found in patients who do not have heart disease. With increasing age, AF becomes more common, roughly doubling with each 10 years of life. In other words, three percent of people in their 60s, about six percent of people in their 70s, and about 10 percent of people in their 80s will develop AF.
Atrial fibrillation is a rapid and irregular heart rhythm that originates from the top chambers of the heart called the atria. The rapid rate in the atria causes the bottom chambers of the heart, the ventricles, to also beat rapidly and irregularly. In a manner similar to other pumps, the heart pump does not work as efficiently as it should when it is beating rapidly and irregularly. This inefficiency often causes symptoms such as a skipped heart beat, fatigue, shortness of breath and lack of energy. Sometimes, patients have no symptoms.
In many patients, an episode of AF will stop on its own, and this is termed paroxysmal AF. For other patients, the AF will not stop unless the patient is given a medication, called an antiarrhythmic medication, or an electrical cardioversion (an electrical shock to the heart) to interrupt the AF. This type of AF is termed persistent AF. In general, patients with persistent AF have a “tougher” variety of AF and tend to be less responsive to medications than patients with paroxysmal AF.
Atrial Fibrillation is treated by Electrophysiologists who are Cardiology specialists who diagnose and treat heart rhythm problems like AF and ventricular tachycardia.
To learn more visit: http://go.osu.edu/afib