There are three types of atrial fibrillation. They are usually classified by the following characteristics:
- The duration of your episodes.
- The symptoms you experience.
- The severity of your condition.
- How and when the heart returns to normal sinus rhythm (NSR)
The three major types are:
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation – If you have this type of afib your episodes last anywhere from a few seconds to one week and they end on their own.
Persistent atrial fibrillation – Your episodes only stop by cardioversion (chemical or electrical), or your episodes last longer than one week.
Long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation (also referred to as chronic or permanent atrial fibrillation) – Your irregular heartbeats last for over a year.
You should note that afib is not always predictable. You may have an episode which doesn’t match your “type.” This is normal, since your “type” is just a description of how afib most commonly manifests for you.
Doctors may also use other terms to describe atrial fibrillation. These aren’t afib “types” so much as they are just additional descriptors for your afib condition.
For example, if you have “silent afib” then you don’t experience many symptoms (if any at all). This is also called, “asymptomatic afib.” This type of afib is usually only discovered when a patient takes his or her annual physical or goes to the doctor for some other health issue.
If you are under 60 and in otherwise good health and don’t have any underlying heart problems or conditions and yet you have afib, your doctor will say that you have “lone atrial fibrillation.”
If you are experiencing lots of symptoms then your afib may be called “symptomatic.”
If you just had an episode less than 48 hours ago the doctor might call it “recent onset afib,” or “new afib.”
If your afib is brought on by digestive problems you might have “vagal afib.” Usually if you have this type of atrial fibrillation you’ll experience episodes during or after a meal, or resting after exercising. This type of atrial fibrillation is related to the Vagus nerve.
“Adrenergic afib” usually occurs during the day and is normally triggered by exercise, stress, stimulants, exertion, etc. In this case, the adrenaline hormone is stimulating the attacks.
Finally, there is “post-operative afib.” Sometimes cardiac surgery can spark an afib incident. This might go away on its own, or it might become a new, lifelong surgical complication.
No matter what kind of afib you have, it is manageable. This website exists to help you learn more about how to manage your condition and what your options are. About 3 million people all over the world live with afib, so you’re not alone!