Heart Disease

Atrial fibrillation: Symptoms, causes and treatment

The atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of cardiac arrhythmia, characterized by irregular and electrical activation of atria, two of the four parts that make up the heart. The beating of the heart is accelerated erratically and can reach 100-200 beats per minute. Let’s look more closely, behind this disorder, what are its causes, symptoms and more effective treatments.

atrial fibrillation

Table of Contents

What is it?

There is not a single type of atrial fibrillation. Thus, we can speak of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, characterized by a spontaneous recovery of normal heart rhythm, and with shorter episodes, within 24-48 hours. Meanwhile, there is talking of persistent atrial fibrillation when the episodes have duration of more than seven days and not disappear spontaneously. On the other hand, atrial fibrillation is considered chronic or permanent when, despite treatment, or when relapse occurs immediately after the end of treatment.


The most common symptoms of atrial fibrillation are the sudden appearance of irregular heartbeats and accelerated, the subjective perception of your own heartbeat, shortness of breath, fatigue and decreased muscle strength.

In the presence of this disorder, the heart rhythm becomes irregular.

Under normal conditions, the heart tends to accelerate during physical activity, reducing the rate at rest. However, in case of atrial fibrillation, the heart races without having made any extra effort, while symptoms such as weakness, shortness of breath and feeling of the heart in the throat. When the disorder occurs in young patients the diagnosis may be delayed, since atrial fibrillation in the early stages may be asymptomatic.


It is difficult to make a complete and accurate list of the fundamental causes of atrial fibrillation. In fact, it is more feasible to enumerate risk factors, with age as a major, because as we get older our heart also aging. Also it influences the presence of other cardiovascular diseases such as cardiomyopathies, myocarditis, congenital heart disease or myocardial infarction; as well as stress, excessive consumption of certain drugs, the alcohol, and caffeine; thyroid problems, high blood pressure and lung disease.


Once diagnosed atrial fibrillation treatment will be vary with each patient and the severity of the disorder. Thus, the specialist can opt for medication, if atrial fibrillation lasting less than 48 hours, in order to restore normal heart rhythm (administration of intravenous or oral antiarrhythmic drugs). Another more complex therapy is electrical cardioversion (electrical shock with a defibrillator to restore the heart rhythm).