What Is the Difference Between Atrial Flutter and Atrial Fibrillation?

Q: I’m not feeling well these days, but I don’t know the exact disease I may have. What is the difference between atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation?

A: Atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation share similarities in risk factors and symptoms. For example, they both refer to abnormal heart rhythms and become more common as the age increases. Similar causes may lead to atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, such as high blood pressure and alcohol abuse, even when there is no other heart disorder.

They, however, also differ a lot. Compared with atrial fibrillation, during atrial flutter, the electrical activity in the atria is coordinated,and the rhythm in your atria is more organized, less chaotic and more often faster than the ventricles. Therefore, the ventricles may beat quite rapidly, but in a regular pattern. Sometimes, patients may have atrial flutter that gradually develops into atrial fibrillation and vice versa. As with atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter is less common and usually not life-threatening when it is treated in a proper way.



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