Atrial fibrillation (afib) is a rapid irregular heart rate, preventing the heart from pumping efficiently. The atria, the upper two of the four chambers of the heart, control heart rate. They usually contract at the same time, pumping blood to the lower two chambers, the ventricles, which then pump blood throughout the body and back to the heart. The rapid, irregular impulses in the atria create a quivering of the tissue, poor filling of the ventricles, and insufficient blood per beat to pump through the body.
Episodes of atrial fibrillation may occur occasionally, which is called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation; the symptoms come and go, and last a few minutes or hours. Afib may be chronic, the rhythm always abnormal. Atrial fibrillation is not usually life-threatening, but it’s a serious condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment. Treatments may include medications, electrical stimulation of the heart, or other interventions.
There may be complications, such as increasing the risk of a stroke caused by a blood clot, and heart failure – your heart can’t meet your body’s needs.
Signs and Symptoms
Some people with afib have no symptoms, and may not be aware of their condition. It may be discovered for the first time when a physician detects it during a physical examination. Some symptoms of afib are:
• Palpitations: a sensation of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heart beat. It’s also been described as a flopping in the chest.
• Decreased blood pressure
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain