A heart

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm caused by extremely rapid and chaotic electrical impulses originating in the heart's atria (the two upper cardiac chambers). 

While atrial fibrillation is not itself life-threatening, it often causes significant symptoms, including palpitations, shortness of breath, and easily becoming fatigued. It can lead to more serious problems, especially stroke, and—in people with heart disease—worsening heart failure

Diagnosing atrial fibrillation requires recording an electrocardiogram during an episode of atrial fibrillation. Several treatment options are available for this heart condition, but choosing the best one is not always straightforward.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can trigger atrial fibrillation?

    Binge drinking and possibly, moderate alcohol intake, may trigger atrial fibrillation. Caffeine intake does not appear to be a trigger; although, some doctors still recommend that patients with atrial fibrillation avoid or limit its use.

  • What causes atrial fibrillation?

    There are many potential causes of atrial fibrillation, like having a certain heart birth defect or a health condition that damages the heart's electrical system, such as coronary artery disease or pericarditis (inflammation of the heart lining). Noncardiac conditions, such as a blood clot in the lung or hyperthyroidism, may also cause atrial fibrillation.

  • What is the drug of choice for atrial fibrillation?

    There is no single drug of choice for atrial fibrillation. Instead, treatment regimens—which may include a heart rate control medication, an antiarrhythmic drug, a blood-thinner to prevent clots, and lifestyle changes—are individually chosen based on factors like the severity of a patient’s symptoms or the frequency of their atrial fibrillation episodes.

  • Is atrial fibrillation considered a type of heart disease?

    Yes. The term “heart disease” encompasses a wide range of conditions, including cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) like atrial fibrillation. Other types of heart disease include coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, and heart failure.

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  1. January CT, Wann LS, Calkins H, et al. 2019 AHA/ACC/HRS Focused update of the 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation. Circulation. 2019;140(2). doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000665