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What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm abnormality in adults worldwide,1 affecting over nine million people in the European Union and the United States alone.2,3 It is a problem that causes the heart to beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm.

Atrial fibrillation happens when electrical signals misfire and cause the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) to contract in a fast and irregular manner. This causes blood to pool in these chambers, as the irregular beats do not pump all of the blood into the heart's lower chambers (the ventricles), which prevents the heart from pumping effectively.

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Many people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms, particularly when their heart rate is not very fast. However, common symptoms include palpitations, dizziness, chest pains and breathlessness. Although some people with atrial fibrillation can suffer from it on a regular basis, they do not, or only rarely, experience symptoms.

It is very important that atrial fibrillation is diagnosed as soon as possible by your doctor or nurse as the condition can cause stroke.

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