What is AF?
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disturbance and affects over 33 million people worldwide. Atrial fibrillation or AF occurs when chaotic electrical activity develops in the upper chambers or atria, and completely takes over from the sinus node. As a result, the atria no longer beat in an organised way, and pump less efficiently. The AV node will stop some of these very rapid impulses from travelling to the ventricles, but the ventricles will still beat irregularly and possibly rapidly.
How is it detected or diagnosed, and what are the warning signs?
The simplest way to detect AF is through a simple pulse check. If the rhythm of the beat seems irregular, this may indicate AF. However, it is very important to check this with a doctor and to find out whether you do actually have AF.
How is it treated and/or managed?
AF symptoms vary from patient to patient, but it is usually managed by medication (beta blockers). Other treatment options include rhythm control (flecanide), cardioversion, or catheter ablation.
Are there any management issues and what are the answers?
For some patients, beta blockers are intolerable. These people might need procedures such as ablation. However, this is not always 100% effective.
How can their family help and what do they need to know?
Families should be supportive as some patients with AF can struggle to come to terms with their condition. They should be informed of any medication that the patient may be taking at the time.
How often should the patient be reviewed?
If the patient is taking anticoagulants, it is widely recommended to review every 6-12 months to ensure adequate kidney function.
Did you know?
A patient with AF is 5 times more likely to suffer an AF-related stroke. The patient should be assessed to determine whether they might require anticoagulation.
Our Global AF Aware Week campaign highlights the importance of knowing your pulse and recognising an irregular rhythm.
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