Atrial fibrillation with heart disease
high blood pressure,
heart valve disease, and
coronary artery disease-is the most common cause of
atrial fibrillation. Seen mostly in people older than
65, this type of atrial fibrillation is often the most complicated to
At first, people usually have
paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Paroxysmal episodes go
away on their own. They may last anywhere from a few seconds to a few weeks and
may not cause symptoms.
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation episodes
may recur for weeks or years, although usually the disease progresses, and
atrial fibrillation becomes persistent, meaning that it no longer goes away on
its own. Your doctor may try a procedure called cardioversion, using either
medicine or low-voltage electrical shock (electrical cardioversion), to return the irregular heartbeat to a normal rhythm
(normal sinus rhythm). The decision to try
cardioversion is based upon how bothersome you find the symptoms and how long
the episode of atrial fibrillation has persisted.
If the heart
cannot be converted to a normal rhythm or does not stay in a normal rhythm,
medicines are used to control the heart rate and prevent it from becoming
dangerously fast. Many people are able to live full and active lives while
being treated for atrial fibrillation. Others may need further treatment
because they develop shortness of breath, weakness, fainting, or other
If atrial fibrillation is not
treated, it can further damage the heart and cause serious complications, such
You can lower your risk of
complications by controlling high blood pressure.
Lone atrial fibrillation
In rare 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, or it may need to be treated.
Treatment may be needed
if a rapid heartbeat causes discomfort, decreased energy, or other unacceptable
fibrillation increases your chance of having a
stroke. When blood does not completely empty out of
the rapidly beating atria, a clot can develop in the blood that pools in the
atria. The clot may travel from the heart to the brain, causing a
The risk of stroke increases with age and with high blood
pressure, diabetes, heart valve disease, heart failure, or a previous stroke or transient ischemic
attack (TIA). You can lower your risk of stroke by taking medicines that help prevent blood clots, such as warfarin or aspirin.
If you are age 55 or older and have atrial
fibrillation, you can find your risk of having a stroke in the next 5 years
Interactive Tool: Are You at Risk for a Stroke if You Have Atrial Fibrillation?