About This Condition Atrial Fibrillation

WHAT IS ATRIAL FIBRILLATION?

Atrial fibrillation, known as AF or Afib, is an irregular, rapid heart rate that may cause symptoms like heart palpitations, fatigue, and shortness of breath. AF occurs when the upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat out of rhythm. As a result, blood is not pumped efficiently to the rest of the body, causing an unusually fast heart rate, quivering, or thumping sensations in the heart. 

Not only can AF negatively impact your quality of life, but those who have AF are five to seven times more likely to form blood clots and suffer a stroke. Fortunately, AF may be treated with medication, cardioversion (a surgical procedure), or a catheter ablation procedure. 


View an animation about Atrial Fibrillation

If left untreated, AF as a disease continues to progress. There are three types of AF: 

  • Paroxysmal (occasional) – AF occurs from a few seconds to days, then stops on its own
  • Persistent – AF will last for more than seven days and will not correct on its own
  • Permanent – AF is a consistently high, erratic heartbeat that cannot be corrected

Find a physician who can help diagnose whether or not you have AF. 


Symptoms

Some people experience these symptoms of atrial fibrillation:

  • Heart sensations, sometimes called palpitations, which may include irregular, thumping, or pounding heartbeats
  • A feeling the heart is racing
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Fainting or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue, shortness of breath, or weakness

Watch the video below to learn more about atrial fibrillation and the symptoms associated with this condition.

You may have no symptoms but still be diagnosed with AF at a doctor's appointment. Even without symptoms, AF is a serious medical condition. Treating AF may prevent stroke, fatigue, and heart failure.

Find a specialist who can determine if your symptoms are a result of atrial fibrillation. 


Causes

The causes of AF are often unclear. In some cases, AF may be the result of:

  • Heart abnormality from birth
  • Damage to the heart structure from a heart attack
  • Heart valve problem

People with otherwise normal hearts may also develop AF.

To help prevent atrial fibrillation, some risk factors may be controlled or modified.

Controllable Risk Factors
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Excess weight
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Lack of exercise
  • Some medications
  • Sleep apnea
Non-controllable Risk Factors
  • Family history
  • Advancing age
  • Heart disorders from birth
 

Diagnosis

Detecting atrial fibrillation and quantifying it can be challenging. Your doctor may use one or more of the following tests to determine if you have atrial fibrillation:

Find a specialist today who can help determine if you have AF.

Learn more about treatment options for AF, including catheter ablation.



Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.