Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation



What is Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia, which is a condition where the heart rhythm is not normal. This implies that your heart rate is either too slow, fast, or beats with an irregular pattern. Atrial fibrillation is also known as intermittent AFib, it happens when the upper chambers of your heart lose their usual rhythm and beat irregularly. This abnormal rhythm of the heart affects efficient flow of blood via the heart and your body. As a result of this inefficient flow of blood, blood can accumulate in your atria which makes you more prone to blood clots1, 2, 3.

Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation


Types

Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation Types

Atrial fibrillation can be grouped into the following:1

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation

It refers to the occurrences of atrial fibrillation that occurs irregularly and stops suddenly. These incidences can last for several seconds or days then stops and returns to the regular heart rhythm.

Persistent atrial fibrillation

This type of atrial fibrillation lasts more than a week (7 days). It does not stop until you go for treatment. If you have this type of atrial fibrillation, you will be given medicines or shock electric treatment to bring back the normal heart rhythm.

Chronic atrial fibrillation

It is also called permanent atrial fibrillation and continues for many years as long as the person lives. This type of atrial fibrillation cannot be returned to normal rhythm with treatment.

It is very rare for patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation to get persistent or chronic atria fibrillation. Infact studies have shown that 9% to 30% of reported paroxysmal atrial fibrillation develops into more severe cases after 12 months. However the same studies highlight that those who are obese and have high blood pressure are at a higher risk of getting chronic atrial fibrillation.

Causes

Atrial fibrillation occurs when your heart is damaged from the following factors and medical conditions:

Heart diseases

They describe many medical conditions that affect your heart. Some of them include:

Coronary artery diseases

These are diseases that affect your arteries. This disease occurs when arteries that supply your heart with blood and other nutrients gets damaged. This damaged can be as a result of accumulation cholesterol in your arteries thereby narrowing them which affects efficient flow of blood to the heart and around the body.

Other factors that can cause damage to your arteries include smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure as well as lack of exercise.

Arrhythmias

It refers to an irregular heartbeat. Arrhythmias can occur with both abnormal and normal heart rates. It can be caused by several factors such as heart attack, coronary artery disease and changes in potassium and sodium levels in your blood.

Hypokalemia

This is a condition where potassium levels in your blood is very low than normal. Potassium assists to carry electrical signals around your body. It is therefore vital to the proper functioning of your nerves and muscles cells particularly the heart muscle cells2. Hypokalemia is caused by several factors such as

Medicines

Medicines that increase your urge to urinate such as diuretics can lead to lose of potassium in your body. In many cases, low potassium is associated with a poor diet which has little or no potassium.

Other causes of low potassium in the body include:


  • Excess consumption of alcohol
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Other causes of atrial fibrillation include:

  • Viral infection in the heart.
  • Defects in heart valves
  • When you come from a family with a history of atrial fibrillation, you are more likely to develop this condition.
  • Inflammation of the membrane that surrounds your heart.

Risk Factors

Several factors can elevate your risk of developing   paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. They include:1

Those people with the following medical conditions are at higher of developing this atrial fibrillation:

  • Heart diseases
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Problems with your thyroid gland, where there is over production of thyroid hormones in the body which causes your heart to beat faster than expected.

You are also at a higher risk if you consume too much alcohol.

Symptoms

People with atrial fibrillation exhibit the following symptoms:4

  • They feel pain in their chest.
  • Their heart rate is faster than normal and they also experience weaknesses in their body.
  • Another symptom is people feeling lightheadedness.

 

Treatment

Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

The main focus of treatment of atrial fibrillation is to reset the heart rhythm, control heart rate and prevent blood clots. People with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation are lucky since their heart rhythm can be returned to normal. Your health professional can rest your heart rhythm by prescribing medicines such as amiodarone.

You will also be given medicines such as beta blockers to regulate blood pressure.Your health professional may also recommend medicines such as warfarin to help control blood clots.

Your doctor can also use a surgical procedure called ablation to manage atrial fibrillation. In this procedure, a heart rhythm specialist puts an instrument through the groin into the areas near your heart. After locating the source of abnormal rhythm, your health rhythm specialist disables it. This procedure can treat atrial fibrillation permanently in some people.

In addition to live with   paroxysmal atrial fibrillation requires that you stay healthy. You can stay health by limit your alcohol consumption, avoid stimulants such as caffeine and exercise regularly.

Complications

The most common complication of atrial fibrillation is stroke. People suffering from atrial fibrillation are high likely to develop stroke than those without. Stroke occurs when blood that accumulates in your heart arteries can form a blood clot which can travel and reach your brain where it may cause stroke. The clot can reach your kidney, limbs, etc and obstruct flow of blood to the rest of your body thus depriving body tissues blood.2

In case atrial fibrillation is left untreated for a long time, it may affect your heart in that it will not be able to push blood and oxygen around the body effectively. This can lead to heart failure.


Reference List

  1. Atrial fibrillation – http://www.healthline.com/health/living-with-atrial-fibrillation/paroxysmal
  2. Atrial fibrillation. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316281.php
  3. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/paroxysmal-atrial-fibrillation-facts
  4. Atrial fibrillation. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/home/ovc-20164923
  5. Heart disease. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/basics/symptoms/con-20034056
  6. Coronary artery disease – http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/heart-disease-coronary-artery-disease

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