Seeing a loved one pass out with their eyes rolled back is a terrifying thing to experience. That minute or two you live through between dialing 911 and trying to see if that person wakes can feel like a lifetime. Though this type of thing can happen due to a variety of causes such as low blood sugar, seizures, anemia, and problems with the nervous system for how it controls blood pressure you may never think of atrial fibrillation, better known as aFib, especially for someone that was free of heart problems.
What is aFib? As the heart pumps blood through the body, it needs to do it with a regular beat. However, when the timer that enables the heart to do that regular pumping can speed up is when it runs into problems. These can show up as fluttering in the chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue. Unfortunately, those symptoms can be missed when going for a routine yearly physical to make that diagnosis until something worse happens such as passing out or you go back for another appointment once some of those symptoms start occurring.
If left unchecked, the possible risks of atrial fibrillation can be serious. After all, the blood can well up within the blood vessels or cause clots, which without treatment could lodge in an artery and move to the brain to cause a stroke. This heart condition can also cause heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy) or heart failure and death.
Tests for determining aFib may include a blood test, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) for checking the rhythm of those heart beats, a chest x-ray or an echocardiogram where sound waves replicate images of how the heart is beating.
Of course, there are more ways to diagnose this problem such as wearing a Holter monitor (a tiny ECG device) for a day or two while going through their usual daily routine. In addition, your doctor may decide to use an event recorder. You could expect this usually as a possibly when the ECG or EKG doesn’t provide enough details on how the heart is working.
Another small ECG device could be used to keep track of the heart. This particular one records the brief episodes when symptoms occur that someone may wear for about a month. Yet, your physician could order exercise stress tests to measure how your heart handles walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. For those that aren’t up to that level of activity, medicine may be given to replicate the same physical effect of those levels of exercise on the heart.
Treatment for atrial fibrillation could be handled through medication such as new blood pressure pills such as beta blockers, a blood thinner, cardioversion to reset the heart rhythm through quick electrical shocks to surgery for a possible pacemaker or a defibrillator (if the heart stops or quivers excessively). They also may want to put in a watchman device, which closes off the left atrial appendage (LAA) of heart. Another possibly is that the doctors could want to use catheter-based procedures where they put in a thin metal tube through the blood vessels to the heart to stop those bad signals from entering the tissues of the heart.
This post is not meant to diagnose only help provide some basic information of the signs of aFib that may help you to know what to watch out for to keep a healthy heart. After all, the better informed we are, the more power we gain for protecting our loved ones and ourselves.