What are the causes and symptoms of AF?
The causes of AF are not completely understood, but it is age related – the older you become the more likely you are to develop AF. However, it is more likely to occur in patients who have other heart conditions, such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease (coronary artery disease)
- some forms of heart valve diseases.
Many people with AF have no symptoms and it is only discovered during a routine medical examination or after a health problem. However, for those who do, the most common symptoms are:
- palpitations (or awareness of the heartbeat) which may be beating very fast
- shortness of breath
- chest pain.
Are there different types of AF?
In the early stages of disease, AF can come and go without warning. There could be long spells between ‘episodes’ as well as cases where people in this early stage of disease may not even be aware they have it.
The three main types of AF are:
- Paroxysmal AF: when a person lapses into AF and then returns to sinus rhythm within seven days without intervention
- Persistent AF: when a person lapses into AF for a period in excess of seven days and less than one year (or immediately after treatment to correct the AF) – in this setting a return to sinus rhythm should be anticipated through intervention
- Long standing persistent AF: when a person lapses into AF for an excess of a year and does not respond to interventional therapy to return to sinus rhythm. This may also be referred to as permanent or sustained AF
The risk of having a stroke is increased with all types of AF.