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Quality-of-Life Issues With Atrial Fibrillation

As an atrial fibrillation patient, has afib taken over your life? Does your afib make you feel exhausted and weak, especially if you have constant or permanent afib? Does it impact your ability to think, focus, or work? Does it leave you without energy and constantly anxious and afraid? Are you aware of every heartbeat and does every irregular heartbeat or palpitation fill you with fear? Is every day a struggle against paralyzing fear and anxiety about having a stroke or even heart failure?

Atrial Fibrillation is Life Changing

Do you worry about when that next episode will occur and what you will be doing when it happens? Will you be driving a car, flying a plane, attending a meeting, giving a presentation, or somewhere by yourself? Will it impact your job, career, or finances? Will it be life-threatening?

If this is happening to you, you're not alone. Many of the patients we've spoken with expressed these same sentiments. For many atrial fibrillation patients, this fear is totally devastating, impacting every life decision for them, and for their family members who become reluctant to let them out of sight for fear of another episode. Atrial fibrillation is the big gorilla in many families that just won't go away.

One afib patient said that having an episode forced him to stop whatever work he was doing. Often it would happen in meetings and he would just have to leave as he couldn't think or concentrate. While he eventually told co-workers, who were very understanding, not everyone is so lucky. In many jobs and companies, admission of a physical issue can be career limiting.

This is made even more frustrating when your doctor doesn't understand. As one afib patient told us, "You can't imagine how frustrating it is when your doctor says, 'On a scale of things you need to worry about, this one is way down here,' and puts his hand close to the floor as you're thinking that it's obvious that he doesn't have atrial fibrillation or he would know how it takes control of your life." Do you understand that frustration, too?

The Turning Point: A Quality of Life Decision

One day you reach a turning point where atrial fibrillation becomes so debilitating and devastating that something had to be done. For some, as things get worse, you can't think or concentrate, have no energy, don't feel like doing anything, or are scared to do so. You may be concerned about diminished capacity and how you are deteriorating. If you can no longer do the things you love to do, it's time to look for answers.

Because of her high risk of blood clots and stroke, our founder, Mellanie True Hills, was reluctant to even go for a walk or walk to the mailbox without carrying her cell phone. It came in handy several times when atrial fibrillation episodes struck while she was walking and she was able to call for help before almost passing out. She and her family were reluctant for her to travel far from home by herself.

As episodes become more and more frequent for some patients, often at inconvenient and unpredictable times, they frequent the emergency room and hospital. It's frustrating and scary. It's very expensive and financially draining. The rest of life goes on hold.

Some patients say that their atrial fibrillation never gets better, it only gets worse, and that stroke is a very real risk every day, causing anxiety and depression.

For many afib patients, medication stopped working, or never did, and electrical cardioversion didn't work either. For some, catheter ablation worked, and for others it didn't. Atrial fibrillation was untreatable, uncontrollable, and incurable until they discovered that there were surgical solutions. When each reached their own personal turning point, having surgery was a no-brainer if it meant restoring their quality of life.

If you're at that point, check out Can Afib Be Cured to get the facts and decide what's best for you, or Partnering With Your Doctor to help you have "the conversation" with your doctor about finding the right solution for you.

Last Modified 12/23/2008

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