Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF)

What is Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF)?

Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF) is a heart condition in which the heartbeat is irregular. It is characterized by episodes of rapid and irregular electrical activity in the atria that cause the upper chambers of the heart to contract on their own, without coordinating with the ventricles that pump the blood. Because many of the heart’s electrical signals are disrupted, the chambers beat rapidly and irregularly, leading to a host of symptoms including a racing heart, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

Causes of Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF)

PAF is often caused by underlying heart conditions, such as valvular heart disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, mitral valve prolapse, heart valve surgery, and cardiomyopathy. Some medications, alcohol use and caffeine intake, thyroid disorders, metabolic disorders, lack of sleep, and stress can also be responsible for episodes of PAF.

Symptoms of Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF)

The most common symptom of PAF is a racing or feeling of fluttering in the chest. Other symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Rapid or irregular pulse
  • Palpitations

Diagnosis of Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF)

To diagnose PAF, a physician performs a physical examination, obtains a patient history, and asks about any symptoms that the patient may have experienced in the past. To confirm the diagnosis, the physician will also order tests such as an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, holter monitor or stress test.

Treatment of Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (PAF)

The first step in treating PAF is to identify and address any underlying health issues that may be causing the condition. Some medications, such as calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers, can help to slow the heart rate and reduce symptoms. In more severe cases, the doctor may prescribe an anti-arrhythmic drug or suggest a procedure such as catheter ablation or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.