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Atrial fibrillation Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

Definition of atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common disorder of the heart rate and potentially serious complications by (cerebrovascular accident (CVA) in particular) it generates.

The heart consists of four chambers (two atria and two ventricles) that contract to pump blood; FA is an anarchic contraction, rapid and irregular.

This fibrillation may be permanent, persistent (> 7 days) or change in paroxysms (<7 days).

Some arrhythmias of the atria are close and similar to the FA: This is atrial flutter and atrial tachycardia.

Health risks and challenges of atrial fibrillation

0.4% to 1% of the general population are affected by atrial fibrillation and this proportion increases with age (more than 8% over 80 years).

Most FA are due to an underlying disease, heart or not, but one third of cases are isolated, unconnected with cardiopulmonary disease. The severity of the disease is related to such thromboembolic complications: the FA actually causes vascular accidents, including brain (stroke) whose frequency is two to seven times higher.

Causes of atrial fibrillation

Among the atrial fibrillation, there are cardiac and extracardiac causes.
Cardiac causes include coronary heart disease (up to myocardial infarction), diseases of the heart valves, heart failure and all diseases of the heart.

Other non-cardiac causes such as hyperthyroidism, obesity or chronic lung diseases are also responsible for FA.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

The patient with atrial fibrillation may experience palpitations with feeling that the heart beats fast and irregularly. Attacks can last a few hours or be permanent. Anxiety, tightness and shortness of breath (dyspnea) frequently accompany.

Other patients are asymptomatic and have no symptoms; the diagnosis is made incidentally during an electrocardiogram made systematic basis.
Unfortunately, the FA can be the occasion of complications such as a stroke or heart failure thrust.

With what did he not be confused with atrial fibrillation?

The sensation of palpitations should not be confused with chest pain.

Palpitations are painless while chest pain is discomfort and pain behind the breastbone. It is necessary to call the SAMU Centre 15 quickly to eliminate heart disease as a heart attack.

Furthermore, the term fibrillation can be confused with ventricular fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder of the ventricles. This disorder is actually cardiac arrest (loss of consciousness, lack of traffic signs) that should revive within seconds by an external electric shock (eg a defibrillator).

Will it possible prevention?

As with any disease of the cardiovascular system, prevention is essential and lifestyle changes are necessary: ​​smoking cessation, regular physical activity and dietary measures.

The adherence to medication regimens is also essential, even in the absence of symptoms experienced.

Anticoagulants are treatments to take long-term and for whom education is needed: respect for dose adjustment in case of food spreads, blood tests, Signs of overdose ...
Finally, the treatments taken must be reported to all health professionals consulted dentists, anesthesiologists, nurses ... Some gestures indeed require special precautions.

When to consult?

Any sensation of palpitations should be subjected to her doctor to have an electrocardiogram.

Prevention of complications is essential even in the absence of symptoms. Emergency consultation is necessary.

What does the doctor during atrial fibrillation?

The doctor confirms the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation and especially research into causes.

Clinical examination can already highlight some symptoms such as shortness of breath, discomfort or signs of complications.
The electrocardiogram is the key consideration as it shows signs of uncontrolled contractions of the atria. Emergency hospitalization is sometimes necessary.

Others called paraclinical examinations are performed: blood test (blood sugar, kidney function, thyroid function with TSH, coagulation profile), echocardiography, chest X-ray ...

Treatment of atrial fibrillation is based on two pillars: preventing thromboembolism with anticoagulants (vitamin K antagonists in most cases), and treating arrhythmia (slowing of heart rate with drugs or electrical shock called cardioversion).

How to prepare for my next visit?

Treatment with anticoagulants require close monitoring by a monitoring book based on blood tests (target INR). Any sign of overdose (bleeding brushing teeth, bruises ...) is a warning sign between consultations.
Violent sports and activities with risk of strokes or cuts (DIY ...) should be avoided.

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