Incidence of the Condition
AF affects millions of people, with men being affected more often than women and whites being more frequently affected than Hispanics or African Americans. Atrial fibrillation is more common in people who have high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, mitral valve prolapse, pericarditis or congenital heart defects. Other medical conditions can contribute to the likelihood of atrial fibrillation, including obesity, diabetes, lung disease and hypothyroidism. Those with sleep apnea may contribute to this condition, as well. Patients who have had high-dose steroid treatments may also be susceptible to AF.
Signs and Symptoms of AF
If you have risk factors and experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately for further evaluation:
· Chest pain
· Shortness of breath
· Palpitations, feelings of fluttering in the chest
· Easy fatigue
· Mental confusion
Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation
Because atrial fibrillation often has no symptoms, the condition may only be caught during routine physical exams. The pulse rate may be uneven or an EKG may show irregular activity. If AF is suspected, further tests, such as echocardiogram will be done. A stress test or event monitor can also detect arrhythmias.
Treating Atrial Fibrillation
Blood-thinning medication is the first line of defense against the blood clots that can threaten health and life in this condition. Regular blood tests determine how the medications are working and whether an adjustment in dosage is needed. Drugs to regulate the rate and rhythm of the heart may also be prescribed. Your doctor will find the precise dosage that is best for your particular needs. If necessary, catheter ablation can be done with radio waves to help restore normal rhythm in the heart.