Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (also known as A-fib or AF) is an irregular, and often rapid, heart rate.  When atrial fibrillation occurs, the heart’s two upper chambers beat irregularly, out of sync with the two lower chambers. Some people will have atrial fibrillation between periods of normal heartbeats (also called intermittent or paroxysmal AF) while others have persistent AF.

Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke five fold (causing about 1 in 7 strokes), and these strokes are often more severe than strokes with other underlying causes.


  • Palpitations
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Angina pectoris (pain caused by reduced blood supply to the heart muscle)

Causes/Risk Factors

  • Age (more common over age 50)
  • Gender (more common in men)
  • Race (more common in Caucasians)
  • Other heart diseases and conditions
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Thyrotoxicosis (an excess of thyroid hormones)
  • Obesity
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Sleep apnea

Studies have also suggested that stress and mental health issues may cause atrial fibrillation symptoms to worsen.


Atrial fibrillation is typically confirmed with the following:

  • Physical examination
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Blood tests
  • Stress test
  • Chest X-ray


The goal of treatment is to reset the rhythm and control the rate of the heart and to prevent clots in order to decrease the risk of a stroke.  To that end, treatments include:

  • Electrical cardioversion
  • Medicines to control the heart’s rhythm and rate
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Surgery
  • Medicine and lifestyle changes to manage risk factors (see above)

Given the increased and serious risk of stroke, your doctor may advise you to limit stress, especially since intense stress may cause heart rhythm problems.  Stressors can come from a variety of different sources, including working as a dentist or physician.  If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and feel that you may need to file a disability insurance claim, please feel free to contact one of our attorneys directly.

These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms


Mayo Clinic
John Hopkins


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