In a state of ideal operation, electrical impulses control the chambers of the heart and allow them to maintain a consistent rhythm while beating. When a person suffers from atrial fibrillation (AFib), uneven pulses result in the two atria (the heart’s upper chambers) quivering instead of contracting, sending the heart out of its normal rhythm. While the arrhythmia itself doesn’t usually pose a deadly threat, AFib often leads to very severe medical complications.
AFib and stroke
AFib is possibly one of the most misunderstood common heart conditions in existence. Because it’s possible to live for long periods of time with AFib, many people underestimate the very serious complications associated with it.
Suffering from untreated AFib significantly increases your risk of having a stroke, even if you are not currently experiencing any symptoms related to your arrhythmia. The type of stroke that generally occurs in AFib patients is the result of a blood clot, which typically forms when blood pools in the atria due to the chamber not contracting properly.
AFib and heart failure
If you’re living with AFib, you also have an increased chance of suffering from heart failure. One of the most dangerous results of AFib is that it causes the blood to flow abnormally and inefficiently throughout the body. Your vital internal organs require regular and sufficient deliveries of oxygen-rich blood to perform their core functions, and AFib can eventually lead to blood backing up in the veins, which results in fluid entering the lungs.
Other heart problems associated with AFib
While stroke and heart failure are the most severe complications whose risks are increased by AFib, they are by no means the only problems that can arise in the presence of an arrhythmia. When the electrical impulses are irregular, it can result in numerous secondary complications for the heart, such as irregular contractions throughout the atria, overly-rapid beating of the ventricle (the heart’s lower chamber), and erratic, unpredictable blood flow.
To protect yourself against the increased risk of these conditions, visit Dr. Dilip Mathew at Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. to discuss treatment options.