Q: Can my Afib be cured?
A: There is currently no existing evidence to support the claim that Afib is completely “curable”. However, procedures like cardioversion and catheter ablation have been shown to subside and, in some cases, eliminate signs of Afib for an indefinite amount of time. Regardless of its urgency or duration, Afib should be monitored by a physician or cardiologist.
Q: Is Afib always a medical emergency?
A: Any time you experience symptoms of Afib, it should be treated as a medical emergency. In many cases, procedures like cardioversion or ablation can restore the heart’s normal rhythm. See a doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms.
Q: Are there different types of Atrial fibrillation?
A: There are three primary types of Afib, each categorized by the duration of Afib, rather than differentiation in symptoms. Paroxysmal (or occasional) lasts anywhere from a few seconds to days, and tends to stop on its own. Persistent Afib lasts longer than a few days, and can continue up to several months. Permanent Afib is infinitely present and often cannot be treated by medication or cardioversion.
Q: How do I know if I’m having a stroke rather than an Afib episode?
A: To differentiate between a stroke and an Afib attack, remember the acronym F.A.S.T. It is an easy way to remember the symptoms/signs of stroke and stands for: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1. In contrast, Afib episodes tend to include one or more signs or symptoms found here.
Q: Could I die as a result of Afib?
A: Typically, no. There is little to no evidence to support the idea that Afib is lethal on its own. However, if untreated, you can die from complications associated with having Afib. Stroke and congestive heart failure are the most common cardiac related problems resulting from Afib, and both can be fatal. It is important to talk to your doctor about preventing your Afib so that other health problems do not arise.
Risks & Symptoms
Q: Which risk factors led to my Afib?
A: There are a variety of risk factors associated with Afib diagnosis. Some include: advanced age, pre-diagnosed heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, alcoholism, history of smoking, obesity, chronic cardiac problems, and family history. For more information on possible Afib risks, click here.
Q: Will I always show symptoms before being diagnosed with Afib?
A: No. While symptoms are often strong indicators of possible Afib diagnosis, they are not shown in every case. Often times, Afib is first detected during routine physical examinations or an electrocardiogram (EKG).
Q: Are there any significant heart risks associated with having Afib?
A: Stroke is the greatest risk factor of having Afib. A person diagnosed with Afib is 5 times as likely to have a stroke that someone without Afib. If treated proactively and attentively, Afib can be managed and likelihood of stroke, reduced.
Living with Afib
Q: Will Afib affect my ability to live a normal life?
A: The more proactive you are about controlling your Afib, the more likely you can lead a normal life. Managing your risks factors for stroke and heart disease and receiving proper treatment for your stage of Afib can improve your long-term health and wellbeing.
Q: Will I be able to do routine tasks, like drive my car or exercise, if I have Afib?
A: If treated proactively, you should be able to live a normal life. However, some people may experience dizziness or fainting while undergoing an Afib episode. If this occurs while you are driving, pull the vehicle to the side of the road as soon as possible. If it does not subside, call 911 immediately. As always, discuss these things with your physician or cardiologist.
Q: Will I be able to tell when I am going to have an Afib episode?
A: Typically, a person with Afib is unable to predict when he/she is going to show signs or symptoms. However, you can understand your risks factors and, in many cases, learn to control them. For example, things like caffeine and alcohol intake can provoke episodes of Afib, but can also be easily avoided. Learn more about your risk factors here.
Treatments & Experts
- Anticoagulants/antiplatelets – prescribed to reduce risk of blot clot
- Beta blockers & Calcium channel blockers – used to slow the heart rate and rhythm, and widen vessels to increase blood flow
Q: What is the difference between a cardiologist and an EP specialist?
A: An EP specialist (or electrophysiologist) is a specific type of cardiologist who works directly with electrical activities of the heart. Such activities can range from performing catheter ablation procedures to pinpointing the heart’s misfiring pathways via 3D mapping studies. EP specialists have also undergone two more years of cardiac related fellowship than a general cardiologist, and are certified to perform electrophysiology treatments.
Q: Are there any significant risks associated with catheter ablation?
A: While there are many potential benefits to reap from the procedure, there are a variety of risks that patients should be aware of. Some risks include stroke, narrowing of pulmonary veins, nerve damage, and irritation to the heart, among others. It is important to have a comprehensive assessment with your electrophysiologist to determine if catheter ablation is the right treatment option for you.