What causes chronic atrial fibrillation?

Joshua D. Stern, MD
Internal Medicine
There are a number of temporary as well as chronic conditions that can cause atrial fibrillation (AFib). For the most part, when the temporary condition ceases or is treated, AFib usually is resolved. In the case of chronic conditions, treatment should target both the AFib and the chronic problem that is contributing to the risk of AFib-associated events. These chronic conditions include:
  • Existing heart problems, including congenital heart defects and heart valve diseases. Additionally, AFib may be associated with hypertrophic, dilated or various other heart diseases that change the shape of the heart, interfering with the heart’s intricate electrical system.
  • Longstanding lung problems
  • Alcohol abuse. Regular, excessive, long-term consumption of alcohol is closely linked to a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
  • Smoking and excessive caffeine consumption
  • Excess weight. Studies and other findings show that obesity can actually change the size of the heart’s atria.
  • Sleep apnea. The incidence of AFib is about five times greater in people with sleep apnea compared with people who do not have this sleep disorder.
Greenville Health System
Chronic atrial fibrillation may be the result of heart disease, hypertension, lung disease (emphysema), congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) pericarditis, or mitral regurgitation. Binge drinking (drinking too much alcohol at one time) and some medications such as amphetamines and decongestants can trigger atrial fibrillation. Also, emotional stress can cause arrhythmias. Chronic atrial fibrillation means the arrhythmia lasts long-term as opposed to an occasional arrhythmia. In chronic atrial fibrillation, medications and/or electrical cardioversion or other procedure are necessary to keep the heart in normal, sinus rhythm.
The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Various types of heart disease are often the causes of chronic atrial fibrillation. However, the disorder can occur in people even when there is no history of heart trouble. Other causes include alcohol abuse, metabolism problems, sleep apnea, and lung disease.

Continue Learning about Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation -- the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia -- causes an irregular heartbeat that can increase your risk for stroke and heart failure. Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) results from faulty signals produced by ...

the heart's electrical system, causing the upper portion of the heart to fibrillate, or contract rapidly and irregularly. AFib doesn't cause noticeable symptoms for everyone. For those who do experience symptoms, heart palpitations are common along with feeling weak, dizzy and tired. Learn more about atrial fibrillation with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.