Atrial Fibrillation: Symptoms, Causes and Consequences

Updated at: May 22, 2018
Atrial Fibrillation: Symptoms, Causes and Consequences

Atrial fibrillation may not show significant symptoms, however, the condition poses significant risk to life. There are some sever complications associated with the condition.

Meenakshi Chaudhary
Heart HealthWritten by: Meenakshi ChaudharyPublished at: Oct 11, 2017

Atrial fibrillation is a condition of irregular heart rate. When the heart rate frequently increases, decreases or changes to an irregular rhythm, it is considered to be arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of arrhythmia. The condition results in poor blood circulation in the body. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's upper chambers and lower chambers beat irregularly and out of coordination which usually results in poor blood circulation in the body. In this condition, some disorganized electrical signals cause the two upper chambers to contract rapidly and irregularly.

During Atrial fibrillation the blood isn't pumped properly into the lower two chambers of the heart causing the upper chambers and the lower chambers to lose the coordination. Atrial fibrillation may not always show symptoms however it can significantly increase the risk of stroke. In rare cases, it can even cause severe chest pain or heart failure. Atrial fibrillation can occur irregularly or periodically every now and then. In some cases, it can even last for several years. 

The condition is commonly categorised into three forms. The first form which is occasional and called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. During this, a person may have frequent however irregular symptoms that appear and disappear quickly. The system may last from a few minutes to few hours before stopping on their own. The second form is the Persistent atrial fibrillation where the heart rhythm doesn't go back to normal on its own. It would need medication or treatment to bring  the heart rate back to normal during persistent atrial fibrillation. The third type is the Permanent atrial fibrillation where the abnormal heart rhythm can't be restored. A person will regularly require medications or even blood thinners to control the heart rate and prevent blood clots. 


The most common symptoms of atrial fibrillation include palpitations, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, weakness, reduced ability to perform physical activities, fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath.


The most common causes of atrial fibrillation include abnormalities or damage to the heart's structure usually caused by, high blood pressure, heart attacks, coronary artery disease, abnormal heart valves, birth heart defects, overactive thyroid gland, exposure to stimulants, sick sinus syndrome, lung diseases, heart surgery, viral infections, stress and sleep apnea.


The most common complication of atrial fibrillation includes the risk of stroke. When the blood starts pooling in the heart's upper chambers it may begin to form clots poses a risk of the blood dislodging from the heart and traveling to the brain. It will eventually block blood flow leading to a sudden stroke. Another complication includes heart failure. Atrial fibrillation, if goes undetected and untreated for long, may weaken the heart thereby increasing the risk of heart failure. Atrial fibrillation can prevent your heart from circulating enough blood causing the heart to fail.

Image Source: Getty


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