The medical community generally recognizes four broad types of afib. Depending on which type you have, your electrophysiologist may recommend a specific manner and approach to managing your symptoms. Understanding which type afib you have can help you both maintain the course of treatment your doctor prescribes as well as, possibly, reduce the severity of your symptoms. Below is an overview of the afib types along with some commonly used treatment approaches.
Individual afib sufferers will generally have one of the following four afib types:
- Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation
- Persistent Atrial Fibrillation
- Long-Standing Persistent Atrial Fibrillation
- Permanent (Chronic) Atrial Fibrillation
Each of these types is progressively more severe, and treatments for each become gradually more invasive and complicated. Nevertheless, many treatment options are available, and symptom relief can be achieved in most cases.
When afib symptoms are unpredictable, of relatively short duration (minutes to days), and have a definite start and stop points, the condition is referred to as paroxysmal afib. This type of afib is generally treated with medications although, in many cases, it requires no treatment at all. Often this type of afib is caused by pre-existing health conditions or lifestyle choices.
Controlling symptoms can often be managed through simple personal lifestyle choices. For example, excessive alcohol, smoking, caffeine, illegal drugs, obesity, stress, poor sleep, or excessive exercise can trigger afib episodes. These lifestyle practices can be modified and managed to reduce afib episodes and symptoms. Other contributing factors to this type of Atrial Fibrillation are certain preexisting medical conditions such as a prior heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, or overactive thyroid.
Persistent Atrial Fibrillation
When afib symptoms continue for a week or longer, the afib type is referred to as ‘Persistent Atrial Fibrillation.’ In addition, with this type of afib, although symptoms may stop on their own in some cases, but in others, the patient may require medication or treatment to bring the episodes to a halt.
Sometimes, medications are not sufficient to restore normal heart rhythms. In these situations, a procedure known as cardioversion can be used to adjust the heart’s rhythm. When cardioversion is used, a low-voltage electric current is applied to the heart which regulates and ‘resets’ the heartbeat. This procedure is done in a hospital setting with the patient sedated. Your electrophysiologist in Houston can discuss the pros and cons of using this procedure.
Long Standing Persistent Afib:
Long-standing persistent afib is a more extreme type of persistent Atrial Fibrillation in which the symptoms do not go away for over a year and are not corrected with either medications or cardioversion. In this case, more involved intervention is required to bring the heart into its normal rhythm.
Your physician may perform electrophysiology studies to identify electrical patterns from the upper heart chamber to the lower heart chamber. If these patterns are irregular or erratic, a procedure known as catheter ablation may be recommended. This surgical procedure is designed to interrupt the electrical pathways between the heart chambers and reduce the number and degree of irregular electrical signals. Interrupting these erratic signals restores a more normal heartbeat. This surgical procedure has been shown to have excellent outcomes.
Permanent Atrial Fibrillation
Permanent Atrial Fibrillation is a type of afib which cannot be corrected with available techniques. Although, medications, cardioversion, and other procedures may help adjust the heart rate the results may be temporary. Your electrophysiologist may focus on both temporary Atrial Fibrillation symptom management and stroke prevention through medications and lifestyle choices.
Atrial Fibrillation symptoms can range from barely noticeable to a permanent, ongoing condition. Understanding your particular type of Atrial Fibrillation will help you both manage your symptoms and communicate with your physician. Working closely with your doctor is essential for developing a thorough understanding of your condition so that an appropriate treatment plan can be developed and you can adequately manage your symptoms. Your electrophysiologist in Houston can help you correctly diagnose your disease, discuss with you the type of Atrial Fibrillation you have, and develop the very best treatment plan possible.
If you have Atrial Fibrillation or feel you may have an irregular heartbeat, call for an appointment at Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America. Our staff of highly skilled professionals will be happy to answer your questions and set an appointment to see one of our doctors. We are committed to providing the finest available heart rhythm diagnosis and management. Phone our office today, 832-478-5067.