What Are the Different Types of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?

types of afib

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib or AF, is a common type of arrhythmia, or heart rhythm problem, characterized by an irregular heartbeat that causes a rapid heart rate. This is due to abnormal electrical impulses in the atria (the upper chambers of the heart) that cause the heart to beat rapidly. When this happens, the lower chambers do not fill or pump enough blood to your lungs and body.

Although AFib is not considered life-threatening, if left untreated, it can lead to various complications such as blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.

There are four main types: paroxysmal, persistent, long-term persistent, and permanent. The symptoms of Afib are generally the same; However, each type depends on how often it occurs and what sort of intervention it takes to stop it.

1. Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation

Paroxysmal (par-ok-SIZ-mul) atrial fibrillation is a sudden irregular rhythm that lasts less than seven days. This type of AFib is unpredictable—episodes come and go and may only last for a few minutes to hours before it stops on its own, but it does not mean the heart is back to normal permanently.

Symptoms include heart palpitations, racing heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Some people won’t notice symptoms at all, but due to the risk of complications related to paroxysmal AFib, it is best to seek medical help without delay. A doctor will often prescribe medications such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or antiarrhythmics to restore heart rate, or anticoagulants to prevent blood clots and stroke.

One type of paroxysmal Afib, which usually occurs during holidays or other celebratory occasions that follows a bout of heavy drinking or extreme stress, is known as “holiday heart syndrome.“ Most of these cases usually normalize within 24 hours, but if your heart isn’t used to all this different activity, it may go into AFib. 

2. Persistent Atrial Fibrillation

The episodes in persistent atrial fibrillation last longer than a week and may or may not end on its own. Its symptoms are similar to paroxysmal AFib, but not everyone will notice symptoms at all.

 A doctor may prescribe medications to restore heart rhythm and heart rates, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or antiarrhythmics, and anticoagulants to prevent blood clots. You may also undergo electrical cardioversion to reset your heart’s rhythm to normal.

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3. Long-standing Persistent Atrial Fibrillation

Long-standing persistent AFib occurs when abnormal heart rhythms last longer than 12 months without going away. This type of AFib can be tough to handle, as medications and controlled electrical shock won’t solve the problem. A doctor might still issue a prescription to control a person’s heart rate and prevent blood clots. However, more invasive treatments such as catheter ablation (which burns certain areas of your heart’s electrical system) and pacemaker implantation to restore your normal heart rhythm may be needed.

4. Permanent (Chronic) Atrial Fibrillation 

AFib becomes permanent when the abnormal heart rhythm can’t be restored. At this point, you and your doctor decide to stop further treatment efforts. This means your heart is in a state of AFib all the time and may result in more severe symptoms, lower quality of life, and an increased risk of a major cardiac event. Still, It’s important to live a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health.

Keep a close eye on what your heart is doing with SonoHealth’s EKGraph tool. Take a proactive measure to manage your Atrial Fibrillation today!

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