A woman experiencing atrial fibrillation symptoms.
Heart and Vascular

Atrial Fibrillation: Everything You Need to Know

Sep 28 2020

Learn about the signs, symptoms and treatment for an irregular heartbeat.

Do you ever feel tired and short of breath? Maybe you didn’t sleep well last night, or your allergies are acting up. Even a little bit of extra weight can have you huffing and puffing after going up the stairs.

However, if these symptoms persist or worsen, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with your primary care provider.

“Heart and lung issues are among the causes of shortness of breath,” says Umashankar Lakshmanadoss, MD, a Mercy Health physician and electrophysiologist (pictured left). “If your symptoms also include palpitations, a fast heart rate, a feeling of dizziness, chest pain and weakness, you may be experiencing atrial fibrillation. An echocardiogram can help confirm the condition.”

September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, the perfect time to discuss the signs, symptoms and treatment options for this medical condition.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart’s upper chambers beat out of sync with the heart’s lower chambers. The fast heart rate associated with atrial fibrillation can weaken the heart muscle and lead to a decrease in your heart’s pumping function. Left untreated, atrial fibrillation increases your risk for stroke, heart failure and other issues.

“It’s important to note that some people experience no symptoms at all. That’s just one additional reason why it’s important to have regular check-ups with your primary care provider, who will listen to your heart and can recommend next steps if you have a fast or irregular heartbeat,” says Dr. Lakshmanadoss.

The causes of atrial fibrillation include high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, thyroid issues, viral infections and sleep apnea. Age, family history, chronic medical conditions, obesity and alcohol consumption increase your risk for developing atrial fibrillation. This condition is more common in those over the age of 60, as well as for those who have a heart defect or underwent heart surgery in the past.

Luckily, atrial fibrillation is treatable! Options include medication or a brief electrical shock to reset the heart’s rhythm. If those don’t get the condition under control, ablation is another option.

“An ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that we perform in the catheterization laboratory,” says Dr. Lakshmanadoss. “We use heat or cold to burn or freeze the areas of heart tissue that cause atrial fibrillation. With proper and timely treatment, patients can see their energy levels restored.”

Learn more about atrial fibrillation and find a Mercy Health primary care provider near you.

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