Lone atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that can cause excessively fast beating. It only affects adults under 60 years old and can be asymptomatic or present symptoms, such as a thumping heartbeat and dizziness.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common form of irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. Treatment may involve lifestyle changes or medication.

The outlook for people with lone AFib is generally good. However, AFib is a risk factor for some serious conditions, such as stroke.

This article looks at the symptoms, causes, and risk factors of lone AFib. It will also detail the diagnosis and treatment of lone AFib before describing the outlook for those with this condition.

A shirtless man with his hand over his heart against the backdrop of a heart rate graph. -1Share on Pinterest
Design by MNT; Photography by Lupe Rodríguez/Stocksy & Bowery Image Group Inc./Stocksy

As with any other kind of AFib, lone AFib can be asymptomatic. When it does cause noticeable signs, the symptoms of lone AFib are the same as those of other AFib types.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), common symptoms of AFib include:

  • a rapid, irregular heartbeat
  • a fluttering or thumping feeling in the chest
  • dizziness
  • general fatigue
  • fatigue when exercising
  • weakness
  • feeling faint
  • shortness of breath
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • sweating

In some people, AFib can cause a feeling of pressure or pain within the chest, which may also indicate a heart attack. If someone experiences pressure or pain in their chest, they should immediately call emergency services.

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system. It may occur due to structural abnormalities present since birth or result from other conditions.

As a 2019 review article explains, lone AFib is a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that an individual under the age of 60 has this condition only if they have no known condition or structural abnormalities that could cause AFib.

The above review suggests that as research uncovers more information about the potential causes of this condition, the term “lone AFib” is no longer useful. However, some researchers and doctors continue to use the term.

Risk factors for lone AFib are things that mean someone has an above-average chance of developing this condition. They are not necessarily causes of AFib.

According to the same 2019 review article, some lone AFib risk factors include:

Because of this elevated risk, an individual who is at risk of lone AFib should be aware of its symptoms.

To diagnose AFib, a doctor may use:

  • Electrocardiogram: This is a test that measures the electricity in a person’s heart.
  • Telemetry monitoring: This is a technique to track a person’s heartbeat, and could involve a Holter monitor or event monitor.

After determining AFib, a doctor will try to find the cause. This process will typically start with a complete medical history and physical exam.

They may ask about a person’s symptoms, if they are experiencing any, including their duration.

In order to diagnose lone AFib and rule out typical AFib causes, a diagnosis may also include:

  • imaging tests, including chest X-rays and MRI scans
  • blood tests and blood pressure measurements
  • electrocardiograms
  • echograms
  • heart catheterizations
  • stress tests

According to the 2019 review article, managing lone AFib may involve lifestyle changes, which can include:

A doctor may also prescribe medications, such as antiarrhythmic drugs, to help a person maintain a more regular heart rate. They may also focus on heart rate control with beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers.

Alternatively, doctors may suggest catheter ablation for heart rhythm control. This treatment uses a small tube, or catheter, to cause small amounts of scarring inside a person’s heart. If the scarring is in the right location, it can block irregular electrical signals.

A third option to achieve rhythm control uses cardioversion, which provides electrical pulses to the heart.

Because having AFib is a stroke risk factor, doctors may also take steps to prevent strokes in people with lone AFib. This might involve using anticoagulants, a type of drug that inhibits blood clotting.

According to a 2022 study, lone AFib carries only a small risk of serious complications in the short and medium terms.

In particular, 99.4% of people with lone AFib survived for 1 year after diagnosis without a serious complication. For 3 years after diagnosis, that figure was 98.3%.

Below are some frequently asked questions about lone atrial fibrillation.

At what age does lone atrial fibrillation occur?

Doctors will only diagnose people under 60 years old with lone AFib.

However, doctors may diagnose adults over 60 years old with normal atrial fibrillation as the risk of AFib increases with age.

Is lone AFib dangerous?

Lone AFib is a risk factor for stroke, which is a potentially life threatening condition.

A 2022 study suggests that people with lone AFib have a high chance of survival without complications. However, this statement focuses on people who have received a diagnosis and treatment.

The risk of complications may be higher in people with untreated lone AFib. Seeking help from a medical professional may help lower this risk.

Can lone AFib go away?

Like any other type of AFib, it is possible for lone AFib to come and go. Doctors may suggest treatments, such as rhythm control therapy, to prevent the recurrence of lone AFib.

Lone atrial fibrillation is a type of AFib that specifically affects people under the age of 60 and has no identifiable cause.

Symptoms of lone AFib include a rapid and irregular heartbeat, chest fluttering, and dizziness. It can also cause chest pain, which is a medical emergency.

Doctors diagnose lone AFib by excluding typical AFib causes and comorbidities. These include congenital heart disease and underlying heart or lung disease. Treatment involves addressing risk factors and may include medications, catheter ablation, and anticoagulants to prevent strokes.

Lone AFib has a low risk of serious complications, at least in the medium term after initial diagnosis.