Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and if left untreated can lead to stroke. In some cases, you may feel like your heart is fluttering (palpitations) and experience chest pain and fatigue. In this article, one of our expert cardiologists Dr Mark Gallagher explains just how common the condition is and how it can be managed.
What are the main symptoms of atrial fibrillation?
Most patients feel fatigued and less able to exercise when in this arrhythmia, often short of breath at a level of exercise that would not cause them any distress when in a normal rhythm. Some feel palpitations, an awareness of an abnormality of the heart rhythm.
How common is atrial fibrillation?
It is a common arrhythmia, particularly in older people. It is present in 14% of those aged over 80 years, but only 0.1% under 50 years.
How dangerous is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation causes an increased risk of stroke, but this can be virtually eliminated by the use of anticoagulant medications.
Can atrial fibrillation be caused by anxiety?
No, anxiety does not cause heart rhythm disturbances.
What are the main causes of atrial fibrillation?
Most patients with atrial fibrillation have no identifiable cause for it. In a minority, it occurs due to high blood pressure, obesity or excessive alcohol consumption.
Can atrial fibrillation be cured?
Yes, a majority of patients experience long-term cure after a single ablation procedure, though some require more than one procedure to achieve this. In some cases, atrial fibrillation can be controlled using medications.
Dr Gallagher is an expert consultant cardiologist based in London and Chertsey. His specialties include atrial fibrillation ablation, arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease and cardiac arrest.
You can book an appointment with him via his Top Doctor’s profile here. Can’t make the appointment in person? Dr Gallagher is available for a video call using our e-Consultation tool, which is also found on his profile.