Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (Paroxysmal AFib) is a kind of arrhythmia characterized by lightheadedness, heart palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath. It happens when the atria or two upper chambers of the heart miss their regular rhythm resulting in chaotic beats. Usually, paroxysmal AFib leads to inefficient flow of blood through the heart and the entire body. This may cause pooling of blood inside the atria, increasing risks of blood clots, and can require heart bypass surgery.
Because of difficulties associated with accurate diagnosis of all the three kinds of atrial fibrillation, it may not be easy giving accurate statistics of paroxysmal AFib prevalence in the population. However, rough estimates indicate that between 25 and 62% of all AFib patients, manifest symptoms of Paroxysmal AFib.
While AFib occurs mainly in elderly people, especially Persistent AFib and Permanent or Chronic AFib, Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is a lot more prevalent among younger people. This condition differs from the other two in that the episodes of irregular heartbeats can last between minutes and days before reverting to normal. Persistent AFib can only normalize with medication while patients with Chronic AFib cannot regain normal heartbeats even with electric shock and or medication.
Causes of Paroxysmal AFib
Damages resulting from high blood pressure or heart disease may cause Paroxysmal AFib. Medication as well as other factors such as low potassium or general electrolyte imbalance, stimulant drugs and medication, viral infections, binge drinking, overactive thyroid and heart or heart valve faults may also be responsible. Caffeine, nicotine and stress resulting from illnesses or surgical procedures may also make you vulnerable.
Lightheadedness, chest pains, pounding heart and general bodily weakness remain the common symptoms. However, further symptoms may manifest. Such include embolism and stroke, which also are the most serious. Blood pooling inside the atria is also common and may lead to clotting. Such clots travel through the arteries to the brain and triggering the mentioned stroke symptoms. The clots can also lodge in the gut, lungs and many other sensitive organs starving tissues in the process by interrupting blood flow.
Treating Paroxysmal AFib
Major treatment regimen involves resetting the rhythms of the heart and preventing further possibilities of blood clots. The common methods physicians apply to reset the heartbeat include cardioversion or electrical shock and medications. Depending on the patient’s condition, a physician may recommend either of these methods or a combination of both.
Like every heart related complication, Paroxysmal AFib is serious and so physicians may put you on a regimen of anti-arrhythmic medication such as amiodarone and propafenone even after you regain normal heart rhythm. These two classes of medications are available under the brand names Cordarone and Rythmol respectively. It also is common for physicians to suggest beta-blockers taken alongside these anti-arrhythmic medications. These help check blood pressure.
Patients who experience subsequent episodes of Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation may have to take blood-thinning medication such as warfarin to prevent the blood from clotting. Many cases that experience subsequent episodes of Paroxysmal AFib may end up developing Persistent AFib or Chronic atrial fibrillation. Such cases may also experience other heart complications in the process. The most common of these are coronary artery disease, hypertension and Rheumatic valve disease.