Atrial fibrillation or flutter is an irregular heart beat that arises from the atria or upper chambers of the heart. The normal electrical synchronous beat of the heart is lost and becomes fast and irregular. This causes the heart to beat fast and irregular as well causing a variety of symptoms.
Common causes include hypertension, age(increased incidence with each decade of life), alcohol use, heart failure, heart valve disease, overactive thyroid, heart attack and the post operative state(after any type of surgery).
Symptoms included rapid irregular pounding of your heart, dizziness, shortness of breath, feeling weak or faint, and fatigue. A significant number of people have no symptoms.
The diagnosis is made by an EKG or monitor if it is intermittent. Other tests include echocardiogram(heart ultrasound), stress tests, blood test to check your thyroid.
Treatment decisions are complex, based on the cause and whether symptoms are present. It may depend on the results of the tests mentioned above. Drug therapy, cardioversion(shocking the heart), and ablations vary from patient to patient.
The most serious complication of atrial fibrillation is a stroke. You may be asked to take blood thinners to prevent a clot from forming in the heart which can cause a stroke.
Despite this, patients with atrial fibrillation do well and have a good prognosis.