DISTURBANCE OF FREQUENCY AND RHYTHM
Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia in adults worldwide. A widespread disease that is on its way to becoming an epidemic.
Causes of Arrhythmias
The causes of cardiac arrhythmias is a damage or disturbance of the conductance system in the heart – the electrical system. These can affect the sinus node, the natural pacemaker of the heart, or the large chambers (ventricles). The so-called conduction system is the electrical wiring in the heart, connecting the sinus node (the natural pace-setter of the heart), the atrioventricular node and the ventricle (the muscles). Depending on where the problem or blockage occurs different symptoms occur and treatments becomes necessary – the ECG usually demonstrates where the problem lies. Arrhythmias can cause very severe symptoms, but might also go unnoticed.
Common causes: Coronary artery disease, heart attack, congenital defects, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, anemia, lung disease, neurovegetative disorders, stress, alcohol, coffee, drugs, side effects of medications, fever, etc.
Who is the typical patient?
The disease occurs especially in younger patients with certain risk profiles, but they can also occur spontaneously. In older patients an arrhythmia is mostly a secondary sequel to another problem. Either the symptoms lead to the examination or the irregular heart rhythm is discovered accidentally, during an annual control. Cardiac arrhythmias can be dangerous, but most of them pose no immediate threat. Therefore, it is important to quickly visit a specialist to clarify this and to know exactly, what kind of rhythm disorder affects you!
What are the symptoms of an arrhythmia?
The symptoms can be very different and are often perceived very differently. Every patient is individual. There are people who don't notice terrible arrhythmias - and then there are people who already feel little misfires. It is very different - everyone is different. We basically differentiate between slow, fast, regular and irregular cardiac arrhythmias.
Disturbance of Rhythm and Speed (Rate)
One speaks of a slow (bradycardia) cardiac arrhythmia if the heart rate falls below 60 beats per minute long term. A slow heart rhythm is not necessarily pathological. Well-trained endurance athletes can have a constantly low heart rate with less than 60 beats per minute and a lower resting heart rate without being ill. If there are pauses between the heartbeats that last longer than three seconds, these are significant pauses which must be clarified further.
Common symptoms are: tiredness, listlessness, fainting, dizziness, drowsiness, shortness of breath, short-term loss of consciousness (“circulatory collapse”) and temporary visual or speech disorders.
Fast Arrhythmias - Tachycardia
In normal cases, the heart beats faster when it has to perform. But if this happens during resting, then it’s called a tachycardia and is not linked to a physiological need but is rather pathological (sickness). If the heart beats too fast, one speaks of a fast (tachycardic) cardiac arrhythmia of more than 100 beats per minute. Irregular, additional heartbeats to the basic rhythm are called extrasystoles. Very often, extrasystoles are felt as stumbling in the heart. But it can also include atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, or life-threatening ventricular tachycardia.
Common symptoms are palpitations, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, restlessness, and even a collapse.
Common form: Atrial Fibrillation
With atrial fibrillation (absolute arrhythmia), the heart beats are uncoordinated, whereby the small chambers no longer contract and the atria only fibrillate uncontrollably. As a result, there is a chaotic heart activity that is no longer clocked by any natural pacemaker. The patients feel this very strongly.
Common symptoms are: irregular heartbeat and pulse, stumbling heartbeat, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath, inner restlessness, feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, tiredness, chest pain, exhaustion, reduced performance or a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common rhythm disorder, that occurs at the spot where the pulmonary veins join the left atrium of the heart (small chamber). At this point there are muscle fibers from the heart which end in the tissue of the pulmonary veins. This is where the atrial fibrillation triggers happen. Therefore the pulmonary vein isolation is done at this location.
Are arrhythmias dangerous?
Irregular heartbeats can be completely normal. Everyone has cardiac arrhythmias at some point in their lives. Whether cardiac arrhythmias are harmless or life-threatening needs to be assessed by a medical specialist. Recently there are also some new electronic helpers (Apple Watch e.g.) which can make certain diagnoses with the help of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). However, the doctor still remains a central element in the diagnosing of arrhythmias.
When should your heart be examined?
Cardiac arrhythmias are common. The fact that the heart sometimes beats too fast or too slow does not have to be a sign of a terrible illness. If cardiac arrhythmia occurs more frequently or over a longer period of time, the cause must be clarified. Especially if these cardiac arrhythmias have an impact on your physical performance.
What happens when you visit the doctor?
Your doctor will first ask about your medical history to better understand your condition. Also, figure out, when it occurs or what makes it worse. Afterwards a physical examination will follow. Heart valve defects that are heard in this way can also cause cardiac arrhythmia. He then recordes an electrocardiogram (ECG) to see the electrical activity of the heart on the surface of the body and document the heart rhythm. Blood sampling will often also be necessary. An Echocardiography, ultrasound of the heart is also a routine examination done by your cardiologist. Most of the time, however, the rhythm disorder does not occur at the doctors office. Then a long-term ECG must be performed. In these cases, your ECG is continuously recorded from 48 hours (Holter) to a few months (Loop Recorder).
Recommended course of action for arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation
If you are affected by an irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation we are your first point of contact.