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Read time: 5 mins
Last updated: 15th Jan 2021

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of arrhythmia, characterised by rapid and irregular beating of the atrial chambers of the heart. As a result, the heart can no long pump as much blood around the body, which leads to a wide range of symptoms, disease patterns and co-morbidities.

The causes of arrhythmia are varied and can include diabetes, heart attack or coronary heart disease. They are associated with a large range of conditions and can be classified by their site of origin, mechanism of disturbance, rate of disturbance and electrocardiogram appearance.

Arrhythmias can be acute or chronic and can either be asymptomatic or present with a range of symptoms including dizziness, breathlessness, and palpitations. Asymptomatic arrhythmias can be associated with an increased risk of adverse events such as a higher risk of blood clotting, heart failure, and stroke.

The type and severity of the arrhythmia will determine which treatment is used. In some people no treatment is necessary. For others, treatments can include lifestyle changes, medication (such as antiarrhythmic drugs and anticoagulant therapy), and surgery.

To find out more about cardiac arrhythmia visit our dedicated Learning Zone on anticoagulation for stroke prevention.