This human heart of ours likes to march to the beat of its own drummer.
That’s not always a good thing.
Atrial Flutter happens when there’s a glitch in the conduction system of your heart which develops inside the right atrium.
➡ In this case, the atria beat excessively fast…about 250-350 beats per minute.
Although the rate slows down to about 150 beats per minute as it continues to travel down, that’s still too fast.
➡ Atrial Flutter may be caused by diseases or abnormalities of the heart, or by diseases in other parts of the body that affect the heart.
➡ It may also be caused by drugs or substances such as alcohol (wine, beer, or hard liquor), stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, cold medicines, and even caffeine because these change the way electrical impulses are transmitted through the heart.
The two main complications of Atrial Flutter
- Because the heart is beating so fast, it’s not pumping the blood very well.
➡ That means that vital organs, like the heart muscle and the brain, aren’t getting enough blood. Without an adequate amount of circulating blood, they may fail.
- The result may be Congestive Heart Failure, Heart Attack, and Stroke.
Although Atrial Flutter is rarely life-threatening, it can come and go with some uncomfortable side effects.
- Each episode can last hours or days at a time.
Symptoms of Atrial Flutter: Again, some people have no symptoms at all, while others experience the following:
- Palpitations (rapid heartbeat or a pounding sensation in the chest)
- Chest Pain
- A “fluttering” or tremor-like feeling in the chest
- Shortness of breath
People previously diagnosed with heart or lung disease may experience more significant symptoms:
- Angina, chest pain from Coronary Artery Disease
- Feeling faint or light-headed
- Fainting (called Syncope)
Complications of Atrial Flutter:
- Heart Failure: A condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the body through the blood vessels.
The most serious complication of Atrial Flutter is a Stroke. This can happen if a piece of a blood clot (formed in the heart) breaks off and travels to the brain, blocking the blood flow.
➡ If you have been diagnosed and are being treated for atrial flutter, go immediately to a hospital emergency department if you experience any of the following symptoms:
➡ Severe chest pain
➡ Feeling faint or light-headed
➡ Actual fainting
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of atrial flutter for the first time (or previously but without getting help) call your Physician, speak to a Nurse (RN), Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Physicians Assistant (PA), describe your symptoms and schedule an appointment in the time frame recommended.
- If you cannot get an appointment that day (particularly if you have any of the above mentioned pre-existing conditions) proceed to the Emergency Room at the nearest hospital. Make sure to take a list of your medications or the bottles themselves. This is important.
Read about other irregular rhythms of your heart…Stay Informed!