César R. Molina, M.D., FACC
Cardiologist & Internal Medicine Specialist located in Mountain View, CA
If you experience regular heart “fluttering” or an irregular heartbeat, you might suffer from atrial fibrillation. This type of heart arrhythmia affects nearly 3 million Americans and can lead to serious complications such as stroke or heart failure. At the office of César R. Molina, M.D., FACC in Mountain View, California, Dr. Molina can assess your heart health and determine whether your heart flutters are more concerning than they seem. To learn more, call to schedule your consultation or book online.
Atrial Fibrillation Q & A
What is atrial fibrillation?
Your heart is made up of four chambers: two in the upper part of the heart and two in the lower part. When these chambers fail to contract in a coordinated fashion, you’ll experience heart “flutters” or an irregular heartbeat. This condition is known as atrial fibrillation and can lead to the formation of blood clots in your heart.
What causes atrial fibrillation?
Damage or irregularities in the heart’s structure are the most common cause for atrial fibrillation. As such, any condition that negatively impacts your heart has the potential to cause this condition. Some more common examples include:
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease
- Sleep apnea
- Congenital heart defects
- Certain chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes
You’re also at greater risk for atrial fibrillation if you have a family history of the condition or related conditions. In some rare cases, atrial fibrillation can occur in individuals who have no heart damage. Complications from this type of atrial fibrillation tend to be minor.
What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?
The most telling sign of atrial fibrillation is the rapid, “fluttering” heartbeat it produces. While rare, you might also experience additional symptoms, such as:
- Chest pain or angina
- Shortness of breath
Take note that some individuals with atrial fibrillation experience no symptoms at all. Nonetheless, atrial fibrillation still requires treatment, even without symptoms.
Without treatment, the blood clots formed by atrial fibrillation can dislodge from the heart, potentially leading to stroke. Atrial fibrillation also tends to weaken the heart, contributing to heart failure.
How is atrial fibrillation treated?
The goal of atrial fibrillation treatment is to prevent blood clots and stroke and ideally control or reset your heart rhythm. How Dr. Molina accomplishes these tasks depends on the severity of your atrial fibrillation along with any underlying conditions you might have.
The initial act of resetting your heart rhythm is a procedure called cardioversion. Using a small electrical device, Dr. Molina delivers a small shock to your chest, very briefly stopping your heart’s electrical activity. Your heart then “reboots” into a normal rhythm.
In some cases, cardioversion is achievable through medication alone. For both types of cardioversion, Dr. Molina performs them while closely monitoring your vitals to ensure your safety.
Following cardioversion, Dr. Molina prescribes certain medications to help control your heart rate and thin your blood to help avoid clots. Certain medications can also help prevent arrhythmias.
If cardioversion and medications don’t help your atrial fibrillation, Dr. Molina might recommend surgical intervention. These procedures often involve destroying and reducing the heart tissue responsible for creating erratic electrical signals.
If you’re experiencing strange heart flutters, don’t put off seeking treatment. Call the office ofCésar R. Molina, M.D., FACC in Mountain View, California, to receive a fast diagnosis and ensure your heart health.