Common Causes and Categories of Atrial Fibrillation

February 2021

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart complication that results in abnormal, fast, or slow heartbeat rate. This is treatable but can increase the risk of heart stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related problems.

During atrial fibrillation complications, the two upper chambers of the heartbeat chaotically and irregularly and get out of coordination with the two lower chambers of the heart. Hence, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and weakness are common symptoms that can occur frequently.

Among the world’s population, about 0.5 percent suffers from atrial fibrillation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2 percent of people who are younger than 65 years of age have atrial fibrillation, while about 9 percent of people above age 65 have atrial fibrillation.

Category of Atrial Fibrillation

Based on duration, atrial fibrillation is categorized into four different occurrences such as occasional, persistent, long-standing-persistent, and permanent.

Occasional – This category is known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. In this, the symptoms come and goes, and last for a few minutes to hours. In some cases, it might occur for as long as a week with repeated intervals. You may or may not need to go for the treatment depending on the pain and complications you are suffering from.

Persistent – The one who suffers from this type of atrial fibrillation faces a change in the heart rhythm that stays for longer than the occasional ones and does not go back to normal. Therefore, they need to undergo treatments like electric shock or medications to regain the heartbeat to normal.

Long-standing Persistent – Those who suffer this type of heart complication, face continuous atrial fibrillation that lasts for more than a year.

Permanent – This is the most severe type, in which the heart rhythm cannot be restored. The patient suffers from permanent atrial fibrillation. To treat this, medications are required to prevent blood clotting and to control the heart rate.

Some Common Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

Though abnormalities or damage to the heart structure are some of the most common causes of atrial fibrillation, there are some other possible causes of atrial fibrillation as well. This includes:

  • Sleep apnea

  • Exposure to stimulants such as medications, tobacco, caffeine, or alcohol

  • Post heart surgery

  • Coronary Artery disease

  • An overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalance

  • Stress due to surgery, pneumonia, or other illnesses

  • High blood pressure

  • Viral infections

  • Abnormal heart valves

  • Sick sinus syndrome relates to improper functioning of the heart's natural pacemaker

  • Heart attack

However, in some cases, there are some people who have atrial fibrillation but don't have any heart defects or damage. This condition is called lone atrial fibrillation. In lone atrial fibrillation, the cause of these complications is often unknown and the chance of serious complications is rare.


If you are having symptoms of atrial fibrillation such as dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, or lightheadedness, then your doctor might suggest you undergo an electrocardiogram. This will assist the doctor to conclude if your symptoms are related to atrial fibrillation or any other heart rhythm disorder such as arrhythmia.

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