The upper two chambers of your heart are known as the atria, and the lower two chambers are known as the ventricles. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the atria beat out of rhythm with the ventricles. Doctors use an electrocardiogram, or ECG, and blood tests to diagnose the condition. Treatment is required because atrial fibrillation can lead to more serious conditions such as a stroke.
One of the common symptoms of atrial fibrillation are heart palpitations. Heart palpitations create an irregular heartbeat by causing the heart to beat faster. It is also possible that you will feel like your heart misses beats. Some patients describe the sensation of heart palpitations as the heart jumping and flopping around in the chest.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include difficulty breathing. Due to breathing difficulties you could develop labored breathing which causes you to breathe loudly. It is possible that you will have a shortness of breath after even the most mild of physical activity. You may begin to feel a tightness in your chest as well as a feeling of dizziness or being light-headed.
Atrial fibrillation may cause your blood pressure to drop. This may leave you feeling tired, and with a generally weak feeling. You will find it difficult to concentrate during the day, and you may not be able to focus on your daily tasks. A decrease of blood to the brain may begin to cause psychological symptoms of confusion, anxiety or irritability.
There are two types of atrial fibrillation; chronic atrial fibrillation and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Chronic atrial fibrillation is when the symptoms remain until you seek medical treatment. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation means that your symptoms will come and go without warning. You will have no indication when they will occur, and you will have no idea how long they will remain.
Treatment of atrial fibrillation centers around trying to get your heart back to a normal rhythm. This is done one of two different ways. Your doctor may chose to prescribe a regiment of medications designed to get your heart rate back to normal. Once your heart rate is normal, your doctor can determine if you can stop taking the medications. The other option is to reset your heart rate using electrical shock therapy. The shock stops your heart for a moment, and then your heart re-starts with its proper rhythm. Your doctor maintains your heart rhythm through regular monitoring with physical examinations, and medication.