According to the Mayo Clinic, possible causes of Afib, or atrial fibrillation, include heart attacks, high blood pressure, congenital heart defects, an overactive thyroid gland, metabolic imbalances, lung diseases, sick sinus syndrome, viral infections, previous heart surgery and sleep apnea. Stress due to surgery, pneumonia or other illnesses and exposure to alcohol or stimulants, such as tobacco, caffeine or certain medications, can also cause atrial fibrillation.
The Mayo Clinic explains that atrial fibrillation is an irregular, often accelerated, heartbeat. The condition occurs when the two upper chambers of a person's heart receive chaotic electrical signals, causing the atria to quiver. While a normal heart range is between 60 to 100 beats per minute, people with atrial fibrillation typically have heart rates as high as 100 to 175 beats per minute.
The goal of atrial fibrillation treatment is to return a person's heart rate and rhythm to normal and to prevent blood clots, notes the Mayo Clinic. Electrical cardioversion involves delivering an electrical shock to a patient's heart through patches or pads placed on his chest. The shock momentarily stops the heart in hopes that when the heart starts again, it returns to a normal rhythm. Prescription medications called anti-arrhythmics can also help restore normal heart rhythm.