Atrial fibrillation (AFib) and atrial flutter are both arrhythmias, which are atypical heart rhythms. Both conditions share similar causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatments, but differ in some ways.
AFib and atrial flutters occur when something prevents electrical signals in the heart from functioning correctly.
The two arrhythmias share various similarities. They both affect the heart’s upper chambers and cause many similar symptoms and complications. However, they also both respond to some of the same treatments.
AFib and atrial flutter are the
A person with AFib will have an atypical heartbeat, which doctors sometimes describe as quivering. AFib can also lead to other heart-related issues, such as stroke. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that at least
Doctors believe AFib
In atrial flutter, an electrical impulse from the right atrium of the heart travels more quickly than usual, which causes rapid contractions in the atrium. This prevents the upper chambers from filling between heartbeats.
People may not show symptoms of AFib or atrial flutter.
When symptoms are present, the most common symptom of AFib is an irregular heartbeat. Other symptoms
- a fast heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- thumping or fluttering in the chest
- general fatigue or fatigue while exercising
- pressure or pain in the chest
Symptoms of atrial flutter include:
Triggers that affect electrical signals in the heart cause both AFib and atrial flutter. Doctors do not always know what causes an arrhythmia, but family history, lifestyle, and older age
Any condition that causes stress on the heart may also increase a person’s risk of developing AFib or atrial flutter.
Conditions relating to AFib include:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- pulmonary embolism
- thyroid disorders
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- sleep apnea
- lung disease
- heart valve dysfunction
Conditions associated with atrial flutter include:
Other factors that may contribute to AFib and atrial flutter include:
Complications relating to AFib
Complications relating to atrial flutter include:
- heart disease
- heart failure
- an inconsistent supply of blood
Treatments for both AFib and atrial flutter
- Calcium channel blockers: These medications can include diltiazem, which
can slowa person’s heart rate.
- Beta-blockers: These can include metoprolol, which also slows the heart rate.
- Digoxin: This medication also manages a person’s heart rate.
- Blood thinning medications: These drugs can include warfarin.
- Potassium channel blockers and sodium channel blockers: These drugs can help control the heart’s rhythm.
- Catheter ablation: Where a doctor
usescold or heat energy through a thin catheter that they insert into the veins of the heart to cause scar tissue, which can block atypical electrical signals.
A person can speak with their doctor to determine which treatment options are best for them. Healthcare professionals may also recommend blood thinning medications such as apixaban, rivaroxaban, or warfarin.
A person may help prevent AFib and atrial flutter by taking certain medications as a doctor prescribes and making some lifestyle changes. Medications, such as the treatments above,
- reduce risk factors of heart problems generally
- achieve heart rate control and restore a typical heart rate
- achieve rhythm control and maintain a typical heart rhythm
- reduce the risk of blood clots
- reduce the risk of stroke
Lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk of heart problems and stroke
AFib and atrial flutter are both arrhythmias that affect the atria, or upper chambers, of the heart. They both occur when something prevents electrical impulses in the atria from functioning correctly, resulting in an atypical heartbeat.
In AFib, the heart beats irregularly. In atrial flutter, the heart beats regularly but faster than usual.
Both arrhythmias can lead to severe complications, such as stroke, heart failure, and inconsistent blood supply.
Treatments include various medications to control the rhythm and rate of the heart. They can also involve procedures, such as catheter ablation, to prevent atypical electrical impulses. A person may help prevent arrhythmias by taking certain medications and adopting certain lifestyle changes.