Atrial fibrillation (also known as AF or AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat or heart rhythm). The most common symptom of AF is heart palpitations (an irregular and rapid heartbeat, typically experienced as a rapid thumping in the chest). There are three types of atrial fibrillation:

Paroxysmal: Paroxysmal AF is a temporary and sometimes recurrent condition that can start suddenly. The heartbeat returns to normal on its own within one week, without any medical assistance.

Persistent: In persistent AF, atrial fibrillation episodes last longer than one week and do not go away on their own. Medical assistance is required to return the heart rhythm to normal.

Permanent: In permanent AF, the irregular heartbeat lasts for a longer period of time (more than a year) and the heart rhythm does not return to normal even with medical assistance. Some people with permanent AF do not feel any symptoms.

Paroxysmal AF and persistent AF may, over time, result in permanent AF.

All 3 types of atrial fibrillation can be effectively managed. Learn more about how to treat atrial fibrillation.