Antiplatelets (Blood Thinners)
The final class of medications used to treat AFib is antiplatelets. These drugs keep platelets from sticking together, which reduces your risk of clots forming in your bloodstream.
Aspirin serves this purpose for those people with many health problems other than AFib.
Other antiplatelet medications used for AFib include:
- Taking antiplatelets can trigger the following side effects:
- Fungus around the toes
- Unusually itchy skin and rashes
- A white coating on your tongue
- Increased bleeding
What Should I Do If I Experience Any of These Symptoms?
Many people experience a few side effects when they begin taking a new medication, and this is normal. In many cases, the unusual symptoms happen because your body now has a foreign substance in it that it hasn't had contact with before.
Your body often needs time to adapt to a new medication. The amount of time for this adaptation to occur is different for everyone because no two people are precisely genetically alike.
Some people notice an improvement in the side effects within a few days to a couple of weeks while others don't see a change for a month or more. Don't be too hasty to assume your medication isn't the right one for you if you experience unusual symptoms soon after starting it or they last longer than a few days.
If you are concerned that your body will not adapt to the medication and the side effects won't resolve, visit with your physician. Sometimes the problem is not the medication itself but the dosage, and some people need at least one adjustment before it's fully effective.
What If the Medication Just Doesn't Work?
The same medications don't work the same way for all people. The type of medicine that works best for your neighbor might not work very well for you.
If you experience strong side effects, call your physician right away. If your symptoms are severe and life-threatening, call 911.
Just switching to a different drug within the same class can eliminate the symptoms in many cases.
Always check with your physician when you have concerns about any medication you're taking. Deciding to stop a prescription drug on your own can have serious health consequences.
How Long Will I Have to Take Medication for My AFib?
The length of time that you must take medication for your AFib will depend on several factors such as:
- The type of AFib you have and how long you have experienced it
- How much the symptoms interfere with your regular daily activities
- The root cause of your AFib
- Other chronic conditions you have
- Whether you are recovering from a procedure to correct your AFib
The medication regimen your physician develops depends on many factors. If another condition like a thyroid problem triggers your AFib, treating that issue could help resolve the AFib.
Your physician will determine the pros and cons and will prescribe the correct medications to treat your AFib.
What Are Other My Options Besides Medications?
If you don't want to take medication, don't tolerate it well, or it just doesn't work the way it should, here are some other options for you and your healthcare team to consider:
- Electrical cardioversion is a quick intervention used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. A defibrillator delivers the electrical shock through paddles or pads attached to your chest.
- Catheter ablation is a surgical procedure that uses radiofrequency energy or extreme cold to deaden the sections of the heart that create the abnormal electrical activity causing a fib. For some people, catheter ablation can eliminate AFib without needing medication.
- A maze procedure takes place during open-heart surgery. The surgeon creates several small cuts in the top chambers of the heart to form scar tissue that blocks the stray electrical impulses that cause AFib.
- Atrioventricular node ablation involves using radiofrequency energy to disrupt the pathway that links the atria to the ventricles. People that have this procedure also need an implantable pacemaker. The atrioventricular node is the heart's natural pacemaker and altering it in this way will prevent the heart from beating normally, so the implanted pacemaker will then take over the atrioventricular node's previous function. You will need to take blood thinners if you have this procedure.
- A left atrial appendage is another surgical option to treat AFib. A surgeon uses a catheter to create a small hole in the wall of tissue, separating the left and right atria. Next, the surgeon places a left atrial appendage closure device close to a small sac, known as the left atrial appendage, in the left atrium.
These surgical interventions have a high rate of success but don't fully guarantee that AFib will not return.
Medications are a primary treatment option and play a vital role in managing AFib. Your physician will use assessment tools to determine which of the medicines described earlier are the best for the type of AFib you have.
He or she will review your health history and current condition to decide which drug(s) are going to keep your AFib under good control. For some people, a combination of drugs and surgical intervention or procedure is the wisest course of action.
AFib it is a very manageable condition with the right treatment plan. Many people with AFib live active and enjoyable lifestyles with few limitations.
Your healthcare team will help you develop a plan that is realistic and will enable you to live as well as possible with AFib. Make sure to read information about AFib from reputable sources and don't be afraid to ask questions about things that you don't understand.
If you run into problems with your medications or any other part of your treatment plan, make sure you talk with your physician as soon as possible. This way, your physician can adjust your plan to help you avoid any long-term complications.