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Conditions & Services / Atrial Fibrillation

Cardiologists & Vascular Specialists located in Dallas Fort Worth and the North Texas Region

Atrial Fibrillation

About Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia and can significantly increase your risk of having a stroke. The cardiology team at HeartPlace has helped many patients stay healthy and active by preventing, diagnosing, and treating atrial fibrillation. Don't wait to seek a thorough heart evaluation if you experience symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Call one of the 30 offices across North Texas or book an appointment online today.

Atrial Fibrillation Q & A

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a heart arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) that makes your heart beat rapidly and irregularly. This condition begins in the heart’s left upper chamber, creating a chaotic electrical signal that's out of sync with the heart's two lower chambers.

Your heart's natural pacemaker normally triggers an electrical signal that must travel through your heart in a precise and regular manner to ensure the muscles contract and push blood through your heart.

When atrial fibrillation makes the upper chamber beat chaotically, it overrides the natural pacemaker. As a result, the lower chambers can't pump enough blood out to your body. Without treatment, blood pools in the upper chambers, increasing your risk of blood clots that can cause a stroke.

What causes atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation develops when something goes wrong with your heart's electrical system, or you have damaged heart muscles. Conditions that may cause atrial fibrillation include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Heart attack
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Heart valve disease
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Infections
  • Lung diseases
  • Sleep apnea

Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and some medications may also trigger atrial fibrillation. 

What symptoms occur if I have atrial fibrillation?

If you have atrial fibrillation, you may experience:

  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

Many people won’t have symptoms until the underlying heart disease progresses. 

How is atrial fibrillation diagnosed?

In addition to your symptoms and a physical exam, your provider runs blood work and diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your atrial fibrillation. They initially perform an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram, and possibly stress testing.

If an irregular heartbeat doesn't appear during your EKG, you may need to wear a Holter or event monitor. These devices track your heart rate for a few days, capturing irregularities that may not appear in the office. 

How is atrial fibrillation treated?

The treatment for atrial fibrillation focuses on controlling your heart rate, resetting the heart's rhythm, and preventing clots that can travel to your brain and cause a stroke. To achieve these goals, your provider creates a treatment plan that may include:

  • Antiarrhythmic medications
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Medications to control the heart rate
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Electrical cardioversion
  • Watchman device™

Most patients can also benefit from following a heart-healthy diet, getting more physical activity, losing weight, and quitting smoking.

If you notice an irregular heartbeat or experience any other atrial fibrillation symptoms, schedule an appointment at HeartPlace. Call the nearest office or book an appointment online today.