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Atrial fibrillation

About one million people in Germany suffer from atrial fibrillation. With age, the risk of atrial fibrillation increases, so around 10 percent of all 80-year-olds are affected. Read more about the symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention of atrial fibrillation.

Definition

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia. The danger of atrial fibrillation lies in the fact that the blood in the heart no longer flows properly and clumps. These lumps, medical experts speak of thrombi, can get into the blood vessels leading to the brain and close them. The possible life-threatening consequence is a stroke. Every third to fourth stroke is caused by such clots from the flickering forecourt. More than 90 percent of the thrombi arise in a small “pocket” of the left atrium, the so-called atrial ear, in which the blood is easily caught and swirled. It swirls through these turbulences.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms of atrial fibrillation include a stumbling or racing heartbeat. This cardiac arrhythmia is sometimes accompanied by respiratory distress, chest pain, dizziness or tiredness. However, many patients do not notice atrial fibrillation at all.

Causes

To understand the causes of atrial fibrillation, it is first necessary to look at how the heart works. The heart consists of two atria and two chambers. It usually beats about 60 to 100 times a minute. These shocks are triggered by electrical impulses. The impulses form in the so-called sinus node, an accumulation of cells in the right atrium. From here, the stimulus then reaches the next node, the AV node at the transition from the atrium to the right ventricle.

Subsequently, the impulse via smaller fibers continues into the two chambers until the entire heart is reached. When the electrical impulse has arrived everywhere, the heart muscle contracts and the blood is pumped into the body.

In the case of atrial fibrillation, uncontrolled impulses of its own arise at various points of the atria, which then circulate again and again in the atria. This causes the atria to contract up to 350 times a minute. The transmission of impulses to the heart chambers takes place only irregularly, the entire heartbeat gets out of balance and the amount of blood that is pumped into the body can fall.

Trigger of atrial fibrillation

The causes or triggers for atrial fibrillation are manifold. These include high blood pressure (hypertension) or hyperthyroidism. Another trigger is chronic heart disease such as heart valve defects, inflammation of the heart muscle, narrowed vessels or scars after heart attacks. In such cases, the flicker is usually permanent. Atrial fibrillation can also occur acutely and paroxysmal, for example, after excessive alcohol consumption (“Holiday heart syndrome”), fatty food or stress. Sometimes there is no tangible cause.

Although atrial fibrillation often goes unnoticed, this is not a harmless phenomenon, but a disease requiring treatment.

Investigation

For the doctor, the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation is usually quite simple. Atrial fibrillation is usually easy to recognize when recording the cardiac activity, the electrocardiogram. In many cases, it makes sense to create a so-called long-term ECG over 24 hours to detect unnoticed atrial fibrillation. If the diagnosis is atrial fibrillation, the treatment of this cardiac arrhythmia focuses on the causative disorder or a gentle medication.

Treatment

For the treatment of atrial fibrillation, the underlying disease should first be treated (see Causes), so for example, the blood pressure or a hyperthyroidism are properly adjusted. Thereafter, the heartbeat often normalizes again.

If this fails or the heart is damaged, for example, by permanent scars, other methods of treating atrial fibrillation are available. Best medication for the atrial fibrillation is eliquis. However eliquis cost is high but you can buy it from Prescription Hope at cheap price by using eliquis coupon.

Medicines for atrial fibrillation

In the case of atrial fibrillation it is very important to prevent dangerous clot formation with blood-thinning medications. Younger people are usually treated with a small dose of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). In the elderly or at-risk patients, anti-coagulants, anticoagulants, are commonly used.

A blood thinning treatment is not without its dangers, because the blood thinning can easily lead to bleeding throughout the body. In addition, liver damage from acetylsalicylic acid or anticoagulants is possible. Therefore, they may not take some patients (eg in the case of a previously damaged liver or stomach ulcers because of the risk of bleeding).

Against the atrial fibrillation itself, various drugs can be used to control the heart rhythm. However, all preparations are in danger of causing other cardiac arrhythmias themselves. In addition, they do not affect all patients with atrial fibrillation.

Surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation

An operative treatment for atrial fibrillation may be considered if drug therapy is not effective or can not be used.

  • Cardiac catheter surgery: In severe cases, the sites in the atrium, where the uncontrolled pulses are formed, are burned by means of surgeries or ultrasound waves via a cardiac catheter or surgically. This procedure is called catheter ablation.
  • Maze surgery: Sometimes the so-called “labyrinth surgery” (Maze surgery) is successful in atrial fibrillation. Many small incisions are made in the atria. These cuts serve as a labyrinth in which the electrical impulse has to pave the way.
  • Closure of the atrial ear: A quite new method is the occlusion of the atrial ear. This surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation is used primarily in patients who are not allowed to take blood-thinning medications. In this procedure, a small, covered with a plastic membrane metal shield is placed – also via a cardiac catheter – in the atrial ear. There it will grow in the next few weeks until the ear is completely closed. In this way, the risk of stroke can be significantly reduced.

Establish the right rhythm

For longer-lasting, newly occurring atrial fibrillation, one can try an electrical cardioversion. In this so-called cardioversion, the normal heart rhythm is restored by a short electric shock. The electric shock is given during a short anesthesia with the help of a defibrillator. The electric shock stops the circulatory excitement of the heart muscle and initiates the rebuilding of an orderly heart rhythm.

Self-help with atrial fibrillation

Short bouts of atrial fibrillation can often be remedied with simple means. The following tips have proven themselves:

  • Hold your breath for a moment. 
  • Drink a sip of ice cold water or suck an ice cream.
  • Cough.
  • Press as if you had to go to the bathroom (so-called abdominal press).
  • Put your finger in the hat as if you were trying to induce vomiting.

With all these measures you irritate the so-called vagus nerve. Above that, the heart returns to its normal rhythm and the atrial fibrillation disappears.

Prevention

If you have heart disease, hyperthyroidism, or hypertension, you should have regular medical check-ups and treatment to prevent or detect atrial fibrillation. It is advisable to limit the consumption of alcohol as much as possible.

In addition, you promote a healthy heart activity, by sufficiently move in the fresh air. Just 20 minutes of light physical activity, for example, walking, strengthen the heart and demonstrably reduce the risk of cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation.