Can Thyroid Disease Cause Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation results from faulty signals produced by the heart’s electrical system, causing the upper portion to fibrillate, or contract rapidly and irregularly. It may be asymptomatic or may provoke dizziness, fatigue, confusion, faintness and heart palpitations. These symptoms could apply to many different ailments, including thyroid disease.

When the thyroid gland is too active, it produces more hormones than your body needs. As a consequence, all the body processes speed up, including the heart. Although, hyperthyroidism isn’t the most likely cause of atrial fibrillation, if a person has overactive thyroid, there is a much higher chance of getting it.

Abnormal heartbeat and tachycardia make the heart beat in an erratic pattern and eventually enlarge. Overproduction of hormones puts extra strain on the heart and may incite changes in the structure of the heart, known as cardiomyopathy. There is also the risk of developing hardening of arteries and accumulating excess fluid in the heart tissues. Some patients may suffer from chest pain due to not enough oxygen delivered to the heart muscle. The rapid and irregular heartbeat also increases the risk of blood clot formation inside the heart. These clots can eventually become dislodged, causing various heart problems, including embolism and stroke.

If you have symptoms of atrial fibrillation, screening for thyroid function is necessary to see whether an overactive thyroid is the root of the cardiovascular disease. Usually, fixing thyroid abnormalities makes abnormal heartbeat easier to manage. It can be done in two ways: taking anti-thyroid medications to prevent the gland from producing too much hormones, and removing the gland altogether. Radioactive iodine may also be prescribed to destroy the thyroid gland without surgery. Afterwards a thyroid replacement hormone will be needed to be taken daily.

The doctor may also get you an electrocardiogram to see the electrical impulses in the heart, an echocardiogram to see if there are any blood clots, a stress test to see how the heart reacts to physical load, and a chest X-ray to see the heart and lungs.

Treatment and prevention of atrial fibrillation includes medications like beta- or calcium channel blockers to regulate heartbeat, and blood thinners to lower the chances of blood clots. Once you are put on medications, it is vital to take them as prescribed in order to manage the condition and minimize the risk of harmful consequences. It is also good to get regular physical activity, have healthy diet, avoid excess alcohol and caffeine intake, control blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintain a healthy weight. All these will keep the circulatory system healthy.

Sometimes underlying conditions may need treatment as they can contribute to the disease onset. Among them are: hypertension, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea, chronic lung disease. In all circumstances, leading a healthy lifestyle is always the best option to avoid the onset of atrial fibrillation and protect your heart from other ailments. And the best news of all is that lifestyle intervention is never late to start.

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