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Atrial Fibrillation - Cause

Atrial fibrillation is a problem with the heart's electrical system.

When something goes wrong with this system, it's usually because of other health problems that are causing wear and tear on the heart or making it hard for the heart to do its job. Sometimes it's because of lifestyle habits—such as smoking or heavy drinking—that are hard on the heart.

Recommended Related to Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Disease

The heart has four areas, or chambers. During each heartbeat, the two upper chambers (atria) contract, followed by the two lower chambers (ventricles). This is directed by the heart's electrical system. The electrical impulse begins in an area called the sinus node, located in the right atrium. When the sinus node fires, an impulse of electrical activity spreads through the right and left atria, causing them to contract, forcing blood into the ventricles. Then the electrical impulses travel in...

Read the Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Disease article > >

Problems that affect the heart's structure

Atrial fibrillation is often caused by a health problem that directly affects the heart, including:

Other health problems

Atrial fibrillation can also be caused by other health problems, including:

  • Hyperthyroidism.
  • Lung disease, such as COPD.
  • Having heart surgery or other open-chest surgery.
  • Taking certain prescription medicines, such as albuterol or theophylline.

Atrial fibrillation caused by a condition that is treatable, such as pneumonia or hyperthyroidism, often goes away when that condition is treated.

In some cases, doctors cannot find the cause of atrial fibrillation. These cases are called lone atrial fibrillation. Lone atrial fibrillation occurs more often in people younger than 65. It often stops on its own. But it may need to be treated.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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