Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib): 5 Related Medical Problems

Be sure a doctor checks for these potential problems if you've recently been diagnosed with A-fib.
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Atrial fibrillation, also known as A-fib, is a common irregular heart rhythm that affects an estimated 3 million Americans. The most common symptoms of new atrial fibrillation are a racing irregular heartbeat, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue when walking. In some cases, the person has no symptoms and the atrial fibrillation is only noticed during a routine medical examination.

Doctors confirm the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation using an ECG (electrocardiogram): Electrodes are taped to the skin, and the irregular electrical activity of the heart creates a characteristic tracing, which is read by doctors.

In many cases, atrial fibrillation is actually brought on by some other medical condition affecting the heart or body. For this reason, it's important that a person with a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation be checked for these related conditions. In some cases, correcting a related condition can cause the atrial fibrillation to go away.

Here's what the doctor should check for, and the tests usually used:

Heart failure

An enlarged heart is more prone to develop atrial fibrillation, especially if the upper chambers of the heart become dilated.

Test used: An echocardiogram can assess heart function and the size of the heart's chambers.

Valve disease

A leaky or stiff heart valve can sometimes put strain on the heart's upper chambers (the atria) and provoke atrial fibrillation.

Test used: An echocardiogram assesses the heart's valves and their function.

High blood pressure

Chronic high blood pressure has been linked with a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

Test used: Blood pressure should be routinely checked at most doctor visits.

High levels of thyroid hormone

A high level of thyroid hormone in the body can rev up the heart and cause atrial fibrillation. High thyroid levels can be due to a hyperactive thryoid or can be caused by overshooting on thyroid replacement medication.

Test used: A simple blood test can check thyroid function and thyroid hormone levels.

Heavy alcohol use

Binge drinking and chronic heavy use (three or more drinks/day) have been linked with atrial fibrillation.

Test used: Short office-based interview question or questions. Note: Laboratory tests of blood and urine aren't routinely used to identify problem drinkers.

Other conditions related to atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation has also been linked to other medical conditions, including coronary artery disease, COPD, sleep apnea, pneumonia, and heart surgery. However, these conditions aren't routinely checked for after a new diagnosis, because it's rare for atrial fibrillation to be the first or only sign of these conditions.

For more on how A-fib is diagnosed, see FAQ: How Is Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed?

For more on how A-fib is managed, see how to decide between rate control and rhythm control and how to decide which blood thinner to use.


almost 2 years ago, said...

My A-Fib was discovered 3yrs ago along with galloping irrythymia.I also have a form of anemia associated with extreme blood loss.An abdominal cat-csan showed no blood pooling inside me-but did show the condition of my liver.Finally the doctors are paying attention to me. :-) I now have a Gastroenterologist who WILL START ME ON ONE OF THE NEW MEDICATIONS.


about 2 years ago, said...

I am 83 -- had af for 16 years and did nothing because I didn't want to get started on prescriptions that can sometimes make things worse. I also have high blood pressure that fluctuates which I was told is better than a static sort. Do not take anything for that either. Soo, found magnesium on the suggestion of Dr. Whitaker's newsletter and after 3 weeks, my af is gone. Yay!! Try it!! It could work for you too!!


about 3 years ago, said...

i have afiff and for the last few yrs i have been doing well on the meds the cardiologist has me on. I just turned 60 last week and i try to take care of myself as best i can. I ho pe i continue to do well on this. i havent had an attack in two yrs. Thank God for that..


about 3 years ago, said...

This article covers diagnostic testing for Atrial Fibrillation. For more info visit our non-profit patient education website, Atrial Fibrillation: Resources for Patients (A-Fib.com) See the section on Treatments/Diagnostic Testing at: http://a-fib.com/treatments-for-atrial-fibrillation/diagnostic-testing/ Patti Ryan A-Fib, Inc.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I have AF too. I'm 60years old now . It's important to have a competent cardiologist. your life doesn't have to end because of this,so don't be discouraged. Someday when it is time for you to leave this earth,you will enter the kingdom of heaven if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior. He died so that whoever accepts His gift of salvation will surely spend eternity with Him. God loves us all. He sent His son to pay the price for all of our sins, Don't give up on your life now. Many people live long lives with AF, it's not a death sentence. We'll both live many more years. GOD BLESS YOU


over 4 years ago, said...

I HAD SURGERY LAST YEAR AND WAS TOLD I HAD AF.. I HAVE BEEN LIVING WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SO IT WAS ONLY TIME WHEN AF WOULD COME UP. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO FOR IT SO I LIVE THE BEST I CAN/ MY BLOOD PRESSURE GOES UP A LOT SO I TAKE B/P MED'S AND TRY AND TAKE LIFE EASY. I AM 68 YEARS OLD SO I JUST FEEL MY TIME IS ALMOST UP. I PRAY THAT GOD WILL TAKE INTEREST IN MY WHEN MY TIME IS UP AND ALLOW ME TO ENTER HIS KINGDOM. I HAVE LIVED A DESCENT LIFE NOT AS GOOD AS I SHOULD HAVE BUT AS GOOD AS I COULD HAVE. GOD BLESS US ALL