A Answers (8)
You can think of the different types of atrial fibrillation (AF) as The Three Ps. They are:
- Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation where you experience a sudden and rapid spike in your heart rate that lasts for as short as a few seconds or as long as a few days and resolves itself on its own.
- Persistent atrial fibrillation where your heart rhythm is out of whack and it stays that way until you get treatment.
- Permanent atrial fibrillation where the usual treatments aren’t doing the trick. It is possible for paroxysmal and persistent AF to eventually morph into permanent AF.
In reality there is a spectrum of atrial fibrillation, and not different types. The analogy I use with patients is that atrial fibrillation is a weed in your yard. At first there are only a few weeds (representing paroxysmal atrial fibrillation; that which comes and goes) but without treatment, these few weeds grow to represent a significant portion of your yard (persistent atrial fibrillation). Completely untreated the weed will grow to overtake your entire yard (longstanding persistent atrial fibrillation). As with treatment of this weed, atrial fibrillation is much more successfully treated when it is in the paroxysmal stage than when it has reached the longstanding persistent stage. That it is why it needs to be addressed with your doctor even if it is very infrequent and mild. There are not necessarily different types of atrial fibrillation but more of a spectrum of paroxysmal to persistent to longstanding persistent dependent upon the amount of time that the patient spends in normal rhythm vs. atrial fibrillation.
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There are three different kinds of atrial fibrillation: paroxysmal, persistent, and permanent. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is a condition where the episodes of atrial fibrillation come and go suddenly, lasting anywhere from seconds to hours, with mild-to-severe symptoms. The heart will go back to its normal rhythm on its own.
In persistent atrial fibrillation, the heartbeat will be rapid and irregular until you see a doctor and have it treated.
The heart rhythms of people with permanent atrial fibrillation cannot become normal even with treatment, but they can be treated to slow their heart rates down. Permanent atrial fibrillation can develop from paroxysmal and persistent atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation, which is a racing, irregular heartbeat, is categorized into three types: paroxysmal, persistent, and permanent atrial fibrillation. The first kind, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, comes and goes; you may have symptoms off and on, and your doctor may have you to wear a portable heart monitor for 24 to 48 hours to detect and diagnose the abnormal heart rate. Persistent atrial fibrillation is a second type of the heart rhythm disorder that only stops when you take treatment with medications and/or electrical cardioversion to convert your heart's irregular rhythm into a normal rhythm. Permanent atrial fibrillation is the diagnosis given in cases where the patient's normal heart rhythm can't be restored even after trying different medications and/or cardioversion.
There are three different types of atrial fibrillation, characterized by their duration and response to treatment. They are:
- Paroxysmal, where atrial fibrillation occurs periodically and ends spontaneously;
- Persistent or chronic, where an irregular heart rhythm will not return to normal on its own but does respond to treatment;
- Permanent, where an irregular heart rhythm can’t be corrected with treatment and continues indefinitely.
There are three types of atrial fibrillation.
Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation
In paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF), the faulty electrical signals and rapid heart rate begin suddenly and then stop on their own. Symptoms can be mild or severe. They stop within about a week but usually in less than 24 hours.
Persistent Atrial Fibrillation
Persistent AF is a condition in which the abnormal heart rhythm continues for more than a week. It may stop on its own, or it can be stopped with treatment.
Permanent Atrial Fibrillation
Permanent AF is a condition in which a normal heart rhythm can't be restored with treatment. Both paroxysmal and persistent AF may become more frequent and, over time, result in permanent AF.
The different types of atrial fibrillation (AFib) are paroxysmal (the most common), persistent and permanent. In this video, Matt Levy, MD, a cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital, discusses the difference between them.
Types of atrial fibrillation are as follows:
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
In paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF), the abnormal electrical signals and rapid heart rate begin suddenly and then stop on their own. Symptoms can be mild or severe and last for seconds, minutes, hours, or days.
Persistent atrial fibrillation
Persistent AF is a condition in which the abnormal heart rhythm continues until it's stopped with treatment.
Permanent atrial fibrillation
Permanent AF is a condition in which a normal heart rhythm can't be restored with the usual treatments. Both paroxysmal and persistent AF may become more frequent and, over time, result in permanent AF.
This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.
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.