AFib Treatment: Choosing an AFib Treatment That Works
Atrial fibrillation (AFib), a heart arrhythmia, affects millions of people worldwide. If you have AFib, it’s important to seek treatment to determine its cause and prevent severe complications from occurring.
The foundation of AFib treatment focuses on following four areas:
- Controlling the heart rate and converting the irregular rhythm back to normal
- Blood clot prevention
- Reducing the risk of strokes
- Identifying and developing a treatment strategy for any underlying conditions causing or contributing to your AFib
The American Heart Association states that some of the fundamental decisions in the treatment of AFib consist of stroke prevention and determining the necessity of anticoagulant therapy. The other piece to this puzzle is identifying options to control heart rate and irregular rhythm.
Your healthcare team, which can consist of your primary physician, cardiologist, and any other physician specialists will create your plan of care based on your age, the type of AFib you have, your symptoms, your previous history and the presence of any underlying conditions contributing or causing the arrhythmia.
Effective treatment for people with AFib is vital because AFib can cause other significant medical problems. Individuals who have AFib are often at an increased risk of blood clot formation that can lead to a stroke.
If you have suffered from persistent uncontrolled AFib, your heart muscle can weaken, which will cause heart failure. Heart failure means that your heart has lost some of its pumping strength and is unable to move enough blood to the rest of the body to meet its regular daily needs.
Standard treatment options for AFib include medications, cardioversion, and implantable devices or surgery to control heart rate, rhythm, and decrease the risk of blood clot formation. Healthy lifestyle choices will also help to reduce triggers that lead to AFib episodes.
AFib Symptoms and Diagnosis
Episodes of AFib often share similar traits. AFib can occur regardless of whether you have a history of heart problems. AFib symptoms begin without warning and include:
- Fluttering or pounding in the chest known as palpitations
- Fast irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest or the neck
Your physician will assess your symptoms and use one or more of the following options to diagnose AFib:
- An ECG records your heart’s electrical activity. ECGs are a first-line method for detecting the presence of AFib.
- Holter monitor. A Holter monitor is a compact, self-contained ECG device that you wear for 24 to 48 hours, or sometimes longer depending on what your physician believes is necessary. The apparatus records continuous ECG activity for the designated period so that your Dr. can see how often your AFib is happening.
- Event recorder. This device, also portable, tracks your heart rhythm for a longer duration than a Holter monitor and can record activity for as long as several months. You should activate the event recorder only if you feel signs or symptoms of an accelerated heart rate.
- An echocardiogram uses ultrasound technology to measure your heart’s pumping capacity and shows video images of your heart in action. The imaging helps your physician detect any structural problems that could suggest different kinds of heart disease.
- Blood tests. A blood test will help prevent the possibility of other AFib causes such as thyroid issues.
- Stress tests. A stress test will elevate the heart rate to levels experienced during exercise to see if a significant rise triggers AFib.
- A chest x-ray is another form of imaging that your physician uses to assess your heart and lung condition. He or she will review the pictures to see if there are physical abnormalities in those areas that are causing your AFib.
Treatment for AFib
One of the keys to effective treatment for AFib is early diagnosis so that your physician can develop and implement a comprehensive plan before serious problems occur.
AFib treatment may consist of medications, nonsurgical interventions, surgical techniques and lifestyle changes. Continue reading to learn more about AFib treatments.