August 18, 2017

Is Atrial Fibrillation in Women Less Diagnosed?

A new study has shed light on gender bias in diagnosing heart disease, which may apply to diagnosis of atrial fibrillation in women as well.

Read: Why Atrial Fibrillation May Be Missed More in Women

After reading the article, please come back here to the Atrial Fibrillation Blog to add your comments and experiences.

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    I am a 36 year old woman who is going in for a cardiac ablation July 6th. Since I was 25 I have been running to the ER and my primary doc with heart palps only to be told I was a stressed out new mother! I have been handed everything from zoloft to lexapro to xanax, none of which I ever took. Mind you, I’m also an RN, so it wasn’t as if my heart rhythm being out of sync was foreign. I have worked on a telemetry unit and knew what I had, which wasn’t anxiety! Finally, 2 months ago, after hours in afib I went to the hospital and they caught it on a monitor. Still though, when I walked into triage and the nurse asked why I was there and I told her I was in afib, she actually chuckled a little bit and asked how I would come to such a conclusion. I wish I could have taken a pic of her face when they hooked me up to the ekg and there I was skipping away at a rapid uneven pace. I ended up having to be converted out of it. Looks like it wasn’t in my head after all, huh? Still, my EP doc thinks it’s svt leading into afib, and afib isn’t the primary culprit, but instead the svt is. He insists because of my age and the fact that I am a woman makes the svt induced afib much more likely. I’m not so sure. I think I have afib, period, not induced by anything. I’m hoping he is right and they zap out the SVT spots but I’m already mentally preparing myself for a 2nd ablation primarily for afib.

  2. I am a 59 year old female who has been dealing with A-fib since my first episode at the age of 17. I also have a female cousin who started living with A-fib at the ripe old age of 9. We are BOTH redheads, born the same day 5 years apart, and the ONLY memebers of our family that have it. She was a swimming “athlete”, and the medical community had nothing back then to medicate us with, so I was given Quinadine (quinine?) for a number of years. Then from the age of about 24 to 40 this annoying condition virtually went away completely. Around 40 years of age it came back like a bad cold, over and over I would experience bouts of A-fib at all times of the day or night. About 1 minute before the A-fib started I would get a HUGE dizzy spell. The kind that makes you grab the wall and hold yourself up. That was just enough time to stop driving, or to find a seat and get off my feet. Recently I’ve been told by my doctor that those dizzy spells are my heart stopping and restarting itself.
    Around the age of 48 I had my first BAD episode. It took a hospital Emergency room to administer a drug to stop it.
    Since then it has gone down hill. Today I live with daily challenges and live with full time A-fib. I’ve had an angiogram checking for blood clots (highly common with this disorder) but I don’t qualify for a cardioversion due to other health issues (I’ve also had brain sergory), so I will be on drugs of one sort of another until I leave this here planet.
    My cardiologist has the heart rate pretty much under control with me taking Metoprolol, but like most everyone else, nights are a real crap shoot. Some are good, but most are not. So I am now on a sleeping pill also. Its not a narcotic, but it just gently lets you sleep, thank God for small favors. Until recently, and my doctor prescribing Trazodone, I didn’t think I was ever going to sleep more than 2 hours at a time again. If nights are a problem for you, ask your Dr. about Trazodone, its the ONLY way I’ve slept through the night in over 2 years, and always wake up feeling refreshed, not with a drug hangover.
    Obviously this is not a death sentence as I’ve lived with it for over 40 years, but it is certainly going to shorten my life so I’ve learned to appreciate what life I have left.
    My biggest problem is how do I exercise? The only thing I can do is walk my treadmill and that brings on the speeded up heart rate my drugs are trying to control. Can this possibly be healthy?

  3. I have had irregular heartbeat off and on since my mid twenties. Very hard to catch on short term monitors. In the beginning they called it idiopathic PVCs. When I had a few severe episodes in my fifties, I finally insisted on a long term monitor from the cardiologist I had been with for about 10 years. During that month that I had the monitor, he called me one day and said “Oh, I see what you have. We can fix that. (AV node re-entry). Sorry for blowing you off all these years”. !!! He actually said that to me! Well, the “fix” was ablation which supposedly fixed the AV node re-entry problem but very soon after “revealed” Afib. That was about 10 years ago. I am 63 now and the Afib has been getting worse and worse over the years. I’ve been on several different medications during that time but none really kept me out of Afib all the time. In the beginning my doctor didn’t put me on coumadin because I always knew when I went into afib. He just told me to go to the hospital if it lasted longer that about 6 hours. Later coumadin became necessary as my episodes grew longer and longer.

  4. I have had irregular heartbeat off and on since my mid twenties. Very hard to catch on short term monitors. In the beginning they called it idiopathic PVCs. When I had a few severe episodes in my fifties, I finally insisted on a long term monitor from the cardiologist I had been with for about 10 years. During that month that I had the monitor, he called me one day and said “Oh, I see what you have. We can fix that. (AV node re-entry). Sorry for blowing you off all these years”. !!! He actually said that to me! Well, the “fix” was ablation which supposedly fixed the AV node re-entry problem but very soon after “revealed” Afib. That was about 10 years ago. I am 63 now and the Afib has been getting worse and worse over the years. I’ve been on several different medications during that time but none really kept me out of Afib all the time. In the beginning my doctor didn’t put me on coumadin because I always knew when I went into afib. He just told me to go to the hospital if it lasted longer that about 6 hours. Later coumadin became necessary as my episodes grew longer and longer.
    For the last 5 years my cardiologist has been encouraging me to get the Afib ablation (pulmonary vein isolation) but I have been afraid because of my previous experience. Finally, when my frequent, debilitating, long-lasting episodes were making me feel like an invalid, I sought the procedure and had it done 5 weeks ago. The first 3 weeks were great. No noticeable symptoms. I even tried testing by drinking coffee now and then and lying on my left side (usually a trigger for me). All was well until the fourth week I began noticing some skipped beats. Now in the fifth week I am in and out of Afib all the time. One day in, one day out. And the episodes are powerful and almost violent. Quite scary. This is worse than I have ever had it! The surgeon says the connections must be growing back. He put me back on my old medicine, sotalol, as well as the toprol he sent me home from the hospital with. We’ll see. I go in for my follow up visit the end of August.
    It is quite discouraging and depressing. I hate taking the medicines since I think they are bad for one’s health!
    Sometimes I think the meds make the arrythmia worse. I know this can be a side effect but it is so hard to tell. Does anyone else have this feeling? Has anyone found any natural alternatives to meds and heart scarring? Thanks.

  5. I am in afib and on BP and HR medicine. I feel good and the afib never really bothered me,in fact I didn’t know I was in it until I had my annual physical….I am going to get cardioversion and am concerned that if I go back into afib…will I feel bad like some people do when they went into afib the first time?

  6. Kaelene says:

    Hi Mellanie,
    After fourteen years of being treated as a hypochondriac, with all the accompanying derision and humiliation leveled at me from the medical fraternity, not to mention family, I have finally been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. It is small comfort.
    This was only, and I stress only, after being actually monitored in hospital, because the damned thing would not stop racing and palpitating, resulting in cardioversion, or shock treatment, which has not stopped the galloping pulse rate.
    At least it only happens when I lie on my right side, a result of also having a paralized hemi-diaphram. There is a blockage somewhere causing all this, but my chances of having that diagnosed is slim if not non-existent, given my age (over sixty), and the length of time it took to diagnose AF.
    I would like to say to Mnrmom, don’t be afraid to hassle. You know there is something wrong, just as I did. I had an irregular pulse, which was called Ectopic Ventricular, or missed beat. It sure was! Grrrr. I also had palpitations at different times and was told I was suffering ‘Anxiety’. I can’t count the number of GP’s and Specialists I have consulted, and have lost count of the Emergency Room visits. One doctor there actually laughed at me, and a Medical Registrar asked if I had thought of seeing a psychiatrist.
    Would it be possible for any fellow sufferers to contact me through you , please? Would love to swap stories. Perhaps we could set up a chat room, but how does one do that?
    Kind regards Kaelene

  7. I have been having what I thought were non stop palpitations for about a week. They feel like my heart pauses then a strong thud. I asked my dad who has a fib if that is what his feels like and he said no. I also get a horrible sharp pain sometimes. I have a stress test scheduled for friday and an event monitor coming soon. But what happens if I don’t feel these sensations during the tests? My doc seems to think it’s hormones and gi troubles. But I swear it doesn’t feel like that. I’m not freakng out, but I just want to make sure I’m around for my babies. FYI I am 37. Any help or advice would be much appreciated!

  8. I stumbled on this blog when a man posed a question about why more women than men have a.fib.
    I went for years to an internist who said my irregular heart beat was “no big deal” put me on digoxin and inderal and said I should drink gatorade and not get dehydrated.
    Every time I had an episode of a.fib I was in a stressful situation-overwhelmed at work, boss trying to fire me, out of work and feeling desperate. The last episode resulted in a stroke.

    When I was growing up, I wasn’t encouraged to be independent and think of myself. Could that selflessnes and insecurity contributed to the development of my condition? Just curious. My daughter has irregular heartbeat and her doctor tells her it’s hormone-related.
    Anyone else have this situation?

  9. Dovie,

    I don’t know of any afib chat rooms (real-time conversations), but there are a number of discussion forums that you can come and go as you please, posting questions, getting answers, and helping others. You’ll find them listed on the right side of this screen, in the Afib Forums section.

    Hope this helps.

    Mellanie

  10. Linda,

    Amen. I agree with all that you said.

    It seems crazy that we have to learn a new way of communicating with our doctors, but if we don’t, we’re the ones that lose. If we come across as emotional or stressed, that may be what we’re diagnosed with, not what we actually have.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Mellanie

  11. I AM LOOKING FOR A CHAT ROOM FOR THOSE OF US WHO HAVE ATRIAL FIBRILLATION OR RELATED HEART CONDITIONS… THANK YOU.

  12. WHAT? Now we have to “sell” the doctor on the fact that we may also have a heart problem. No wonder so many of us are stressed. There is a business case here that it sounds like the medical profession is missing. Don’t they know that we women are the ones that get everyone to the doctor? If we die off who are going to get the kids, the parents and the spouses and significant others to go to the doctor? Thanks for this Mellanie! Good info.

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