Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation Versus Persistent Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a common arrhythmia that begins in the atria, or upper chambers, of the heart. AFib causes the heart to beat irregularly, with the upper and lower chambers beating out of sync and sometimes faster than normal.

There are two basic types of AFib – paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and persistent atrial fibrillation. 

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation

In paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, the irregular rhythm stops on its own within a week. Symptoms for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation are similar to all types of atrial fibrillation. While not all paroxysmal AFib causes symptoms, patients may notice palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, fatigue, or fainting. 

While paroxysmal AFib does return to a normal rhythm on its own, it can still have serious consequences for the patient. First, it can be caused by several heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or heart failure. Non-cardiac causes include electrolyte problems, infection, and thyroid problems. Sometimes, the underlying cause of paroxysmal AFib is a condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated, so you should talk with your doctor even if the AFib goes away. 

Additionally, repeated episodes of paroxysmal AFib can eventually turn into persistent AFib. Treatment can help prevent repeat episodes and prevent blood clots that can lead to stroke and other problems. Treatment options include medication to help regulate the heartbeat and anticoagulants to prevent blood clots. In some cases, catheter ablation may be used to permanently restore regular rhythm. 

Persistent Atrial Fibrillation

Persistent AFib refers to AFib that extends past seven days and does not resolve on its own. Much like paroxysmal AFib, symptoms of persistent AFib include palpitations, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. 

Persistent atrial fibrillation does not have a cure, but treatment goals include slowing the progress of the condition, restoring normal heart rhythm, and reducing risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. Treatments for persistent AFib include medications to control heart rhythm and blood thinners to prevent clotting. Catheter ablation or a pacemaker may be used if doctors determine medication is not adequately controlling the condition.

In both paroxysmal AFib and persistent AFib, it’s important to see your doctor to evaluate any underlying causes and begin treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of AFib, schedule an appointment with the OHH Heart Rhythm Institute today.