Does atrial fibrillation come and go?

If your heart flutters every time you see Gerard Butler or Megan Fox, relax. That’s not atrial fibrillation. However, some people develop a form of “a-fib” that does indeed come and go, but it lasts more than a few seconds. It’s called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Your heart starts to bump and grind like Elvis in a crazy way, but it lasts for a few minutes or up to a few hours every now and then before returning to normal rhythm. If you have occasional heart palpitations, tell your doctor. And if you ever experience chest pain, heaviness, and significant shortness of breath, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Practitioner

In some people, atrial fibrillation comes and goes. For instance, they may experience irregular and fast heartbeats, but by the time they get to the doctor's office, their heart rhythms are normal again. This type of atrial fibrillation is called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. In other cases, people have atrial fibrillation all the time, and no treatment can get the heartbeat back into a regular rhythm.

Atrial fibrillation may be an acute or short-term condition, or it may become a chronic or permanent problem with the heart's electrical system.

Keep in mind that your heart rate slows with aging. For many people with atrial fibrillation, its annoying and interrupting symptoms may lessen with age. Also, different medications and newer treatments may control irregular heart rhythm and calm the symptoms. Still, there are situations when atrial fibrillation cannot be treated with medications and the irregular heart rhythm is permanent.

Atrial fibrillation can come and go when it first starts, but over time, continues with more regularity.

Continue Learning about Atrial Fibrillation

Fitbit Helps Doctors Treat Heart Condition
Fitbit Helps Doctors Treat Heart Condition
Wearable fitness trackers are great tools to help you get in shape—they can track your steps and tell you how many calories you’ve burned. Some tracke...
Read More
What can I ask my parent's doctor about atrial fibrillation?
Greenville Health SystemGreenville Health System
If your parent has been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, you will want to learn all you can about...
More Answers
Is paroxysmal atrial fibrillation treated by a critical care specialist?
 Dr. Cathy Provins-Churbock, PhD Dr. Cathy Provins-Churbock, PhD
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF) may be treated by a critical care specialist, specifically a ca...
More Answers
Not All Atrial Fibrillation Is the Same
Not All Atrial Fibrillation Is the Same

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.