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Atrial fibrillation (AF) causes an irregular heartbeat. There are various causes of AF. Medication can slow a fast heart rate and ease symptoms. Sometimes treatment can restore the heart rhythm back to normal. In addition, a medicine to prevent clots forming is usually advised to reduce the risk of having a stroke.
A normal heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats a minute when you're resting, and is regular. The main difference between a normal rhythm and atrial fibrillation is that you are unable to predict when the next heart beat will come along, as heart rate is irregular.
This may lead to a number of problems, including dizziness and shortness of breath. You may also be aware of a fast and irregular heartbeat (palpitations) and feel very tired.
How is it treated? Includes videos on the ECG test and ablation
An anticoagulant is a medicine that stops blood from clotting. Warfarin is the main oral anticoagulant used in the UK. It is used in Atrial Fibrillation, but also for pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs) and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the veins of the legs).
The British Heart Foundation provides information on how to check for atrial fibrillation.
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NON-EMERGENCY: Take a look at our "Get health information" page. Alternatively, call 111 for non-urgent medical advice.
MINOR INJURIES: We do not provide a minor injuries service. You should attend A&E or a local minor iunjuries unit. The LIVE WAITING times for these services are listed here.
EMERGENCY: Dial 999 or go to your nearest A&E Department (you must not dial 999 for anything other than an emergency)
If you do need to attend the emergency department at Torbay Hospital please read this leaflet.