Lone atrial fibrillation, or LAF, is a type of atrial fibrillation that usually occurs in the absence of any underlying or current heart conditions. Atrial fibrillation is considered the most common form of heart arrhythmia, but as many as 70% of these cases occur due to underlying heart disease. Lone atrial fibrillation causes the heart rate to increase dramatically and may also cause shortness of breath, vertigo, fainting, increased urination, and fatigue. Episodes generally last from two hours to seven days. A number of factors can contribute to development of the disorder or trigger an episode of lone atrial fibrillation.
Two major types of lone atrial fibrillation have been identified by Dr. Philippe Coumel, a French cardiologist. Vagal lone atrial fibrillation generally affects men aged 40 to 50. Episodes may be most likely during periods of relaxation, in the evening, immediately after eating, or after drinking alcohol. Adrengeric long atrial fibrillation usually occurs only during the daylight hours, and often follows physical activity or stress. Adrenergic LAF is more often accompanied by increased urination.
Some people who experience an episode of lone atrial fibrillation may suffer only one episode, and never have symptoms again. For others, the symptoms may return intermittently. Some patients have fewer than one episode each year, while others may have them far more often. LAF may be more common in men than in women, and can occur as a result of hyperthyroidism. Treatment the hyperthyroidism usually resolves LAF symptoms for these patients.
Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can trigger an episode of LAF. Symptoms have been known to occur after the consumption of chocolate, red wine, cheese, bananas, and yogurt. Problems with blood electrolyte levels, specifically inappropriate levels of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium, can trigger episodes of lone atrial fibrillation.
Patients seeking emergency medical treatment during an episode of LAF may be given drugs such as diltiazem, digitalis, or propranolol to lower the heart rate. Beta-blockers such as flecainide may be prescribed to prevent LAF episodes in some patients. Some patients use flecainide to stop an episode of LAF after it begins.
Dietary and lifestyle changes can also help patients control their symptoms. Researchers believe that removing alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners from the diet can be beneficial to many patients. Magnesium, potassium, or taurine supplements have benefited some patients. Others have found that treating underlying food allergies and digestive conditions can improve the symptoms of LAF. Surgical procedures are also sometimes used to correct lone atrial fibrillation, but these surgeries are considered completely successful in only about 60% of patients.