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Cryptogenic Stroke and Underlying Atrial Fibrillation

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Medically Reviewed By: Alia Hanif Khan
August 22, 2023No Comments

Updated on August 22, 2023

cryptogenic stroke and underlying atrial fibrillation

What is Cryptogenic Stroke?

A cryptogenic stroke is a type of stroke that is mysterious, to say the least. It is a type of cerebral ischemia the cause of which remains unknown to this day, even though it is a common occurrence. Atrial fibrillation, on the other hand, is one of the most common heart arrhythmias that causes symptoms like a rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest, shortness of breath and anxiety, chest pain, and alternating fast and slow heart rates. It is usually caused by a disturbance in the electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart i.e., atria.

The purpose of this blog is to give an in-depth explanation of what cryptogenic strokes and atrial fibrillation are and their correlation with each other. Continue reading this blog to find out about cryptogenic stroke and atrial fibrillation, and learn about Revival Research Institute’s multiple cardiology clinical trials, including one on atrial fibrillation.

Understanding Cryptogenic Stroke

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), stroke affects about 0.8 million Americans. Ischemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes and cryptogenic strokes constitute about 20 to 40% of all ischemic strokes.
Doctors classify strokes as cryptogenic due to the following reasons:

• They are unable to find the cause of the stroke
• There are two or more possible causes
• The cause of the stroke hasn’t been understood

Causes of Stroke

An ischemic stroke is a result of a blood clot that blocks and disrupts blood flow to part of your brain. Even after rigorous testing, the cause of a stroke or cryptogenic stroke can’t always be identified.

Although no exact cause can be pinpointed, it’s thought that a large proportion of cryptogenic strokes are caused by:

• Atrial Fibrillation (AFib):

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of irregular heartbeat that can increase the risk of stroke by about 5 times.

• Hypercoagulable State:

A hypercoagulable state occurs when your blood becomes prone to blood clot formation.

• Aortic Arch Atheroma:

Aortic arch atheroma refers to the accumulation of plaque within the upper portion of the primary artery that originates from the heart. Fragments from this plaque have the potential to detach and travel to the brain.

• Patent Foramen Ovale:

A patent foramen ovale is a congenital heart anomaly, a hole in the heart that remains incompletely sealed as you age. This occurrence is found in approximately a quarter of adults and typically doesn’t lead to complications.

• Other causes:

These may include infections such as endocarditis, a break in the wall of one of your arteries or cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Cryptogenic Stroke?

Symptoms can vary depending on which portion of the brain is affected. Common symptoms include:

• Severe headache
• Dizziness
• Loss of balance
• Lack of coordination
• Change in vision
• Sudden confusion
• Difficulty speaking
• Difficulty comprehending speech
• One-sided paralysis

Atrial Fibrillation – The Silent Culprit

Out of all the types of heart arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation is the most common type (irregular heartbeat) that can disrupt the flow of blood. The interruption means that this condition can put you at a higher risk of blood clots and stroke.

The AHA (American Heart Association) estimates that nearly 2.7 million people (about the population of Mississippi) have atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation or AFib affects the two upper chambers of your heart (atria) and disrupts blood flow to the ventricles or the lower chambers, and eventually to the rest of the body. This condition can prove to be fatal if left untreated.

Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

Heart-damaging conditions that may lead to atrial fibrillation include:

• High blood pressure
• Congestive heart failure
• Coronary artery disease
• Heart valve disease
• Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
• Heart surgery
• Congenital heart defects
• Pericarditis
• Taking certain medications
• Thyroid disease

Substances and medications may include:

• Cold medications
• Nasal spray decongestants
• Caffeine
• Alcohol
• Smoking
• Dehydration may also influence AFib events

Symptoms of AFib

A heartbeat that is too fast, too slow, or inconsistent is irregular and suggests AFib. Some of the more common symptoms of AFib are:

• Heart palpitations
• Chest pain
• Fatigue
• Shortness of breath
• Weakness
• Lightheadedness
• Dizziness
• Fainting
• Confusion
• Intolerance to exercise

These symptoms may be transient or permanent.

Risk Factors for Atrial Fibrillation

There are several risk factors for AFib. Some of these can be preventable, while others are genetic, and talking to your doctor may help you mitigate the condition. Risk factors include:

• Increased age
• Being Caucasian
• Being male
• A family history of atrial fibrillation
• Heart disease
• Structural heart defects
• Congenital heart defects
• Pericarditis
• History of heart attacks
• History of heart surgery
• Thyroid conditions
• Metabolic syndrome
• Obesity
• Lung disease
• Diabetes
• Alcohol consumption
• Sleep apnea
• High-dosage steroid therapy

The Overlapping Scenario: Cryptogenic Stroke and AFib

Detecting underlying atrial fibrillation in cases of cryptogenic stroke holds significant clinical importance and could play a pivotal role in the treatment plan.

Identifying and addressing atrial fibrillation is essential in lowering the likelihood of recurrent episodes in cryptogenic stroke cases associated with this specific heart rhythm irregularity.


In conclusion, raising awareness about atrial fibrillation and its link to stroke is of immense importance. As we dive deeper into the subject, we see ongoing research is actively striving to unravel the complex interplay between cryptogenic stroke and atrial fibrillation. The evolution of advanced monitoring techniques and the progression of clinical trials offer promising avenues for better comprehension and management.

Recapping the intricate relationship between cryptogenic stroke and underlying atrial fibrillation emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to stroke prevention. We should foster increased awareness, promote collaborative research efforts among medical professionals, and drive the integration of knowledge into clinical practices.

Revival Research Institute is busy playing its part in the arena of clinical research and cardiology. It is important that we prioritize our heart health and proactively seek timely medical care. Through education, research, and personal empowerment, we can pave the way for a healthier future where the complexities of cryptogenic stroke and atrial fibrillation are better understood and effectively managed.

Dr. Hamza Nadeem

Author Dr. Hamza Nadeem

Dr. Muhammad Hamza Nadeem currently works as a Patient Recruitment Associate. He has a firm grip on the medical research process and patient safety in clinical trials. His experience in writing combined with an academic background in medical science makes him well-suited to assist individuals in clinical trial participation.

More posts by Dr. Hamza Nadeem

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