Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib or AF, is a condition that about 2.7 million Americans have. It is a heart arrhythmia that can lead to stroke.

People experience AFib differently. Some describe it as a fluttering; some as pounding—and some are not even aware that they have the condition until their doctors discover it on an electrocardiogram (EKG).

What Happens to the Heart in Atrial Fibrillation? 

Your heartbeat is a rhythmic contracting and relaxing. According to the American Heart Association, when a person has atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat irregularly, and blood does not move effectively into the ventricles. Approximately one-fifth of the people who have strokes suffer from this type of heart arrhythmia.

AFib is the most common “serious” heart arrhythmia in the over-65 age group. Gone untreated, AFib doubles the risk of deaths from heart failure and increases the chance of stroke four to five times.

Dr. Steve Roach, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Wake Forest University Medical School, says of AFib, “Anything that allows blood to slow down or pool increases the risk of clotting, and so increases the risk of stroke.” Then, when a clot breaks off and enters the bloodstream, it can lodge in an artery leading to the brain and cause a stroke. Roach continues, “This clot risk is why patients with this condition are put on blood thinners. People with atrial fibrillation have an increased stroke risk of about five percent per year.”

A 2009 survey of AFib patients revealed that only 33 percent of them consider AFib a serious condition. Less than half believe that they have a higher risk of stroke, heart-related hospitalizations, or death as a result of AFib. In truth, half of AFib patients who have a stroke die within a year.

Symptoms of AFib

In addition to having a quivering or fluttering heartbeat, patients with AFib may experience the following symptoms:

  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Thumping in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Faintness or confusion
  • Fatigue when exercising
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain or pressure

Although fluttering and palpitations of are unique to AFib, many heart conditions have similar symptoms. Because patients with AFib are at higher risk for stroke and heart attack, these people should be familiar with the warning signs for heart attack and stroke.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Warning Signs of Stroke

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Atrial fibrillation is a serious condition, but the side effects of the medications can be deadly. If you have a Louisville Pradaxa prescription for your AFib and have experienced dangerous complications, including uncontrollable bleeding, contact the Kentucky Pradaxa complications attorneys at Gray and White Law. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 and set up a FREE, no-obligation, confidential consultation.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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