Atrial fibrillation, Diagnosis, Heart Diseases, Heart Health

How Long Does an AFib Episode Normally Last?

AFib stands for atrial fibrillation. This is a condition that causes the upper and lowers heart chambers to beat out of sync. In such a cause, an irregular heartbeat happens. Other symptoms may be present, as well. To make the diagnosis and treatment process easier, AFib has been classified into four different types. 

Each type characterizes itself with different duration of the symptoms, among other things.

It is very important for the patient to be able to answer questions such as – “How long does Atrial fibrillation last?”. In today’s article, we will discuss the four different types of AFib to help you determine your exact type.

What Is the Expected Duration of an AFib Episode?

In the majority of cases, the symptoms of AFib tend to start benign. As the condition progresses, the symptoms progress as well. This means that both the duration and the intensity of the AFib episode increase over time.

The early AFib episodes usually last around a few minutes or even seconds.

Often, no use of any specific medication is required. However, with the worsening of the condition, the length of the episodes increases. With that, proper medications are required in order to control these very same symptoms.

The bad news is that there are still patients that are unable to control their symptoms with the use of medications. For some people, the medications become less effective over time or even stop working altogether. Some patients describe the AFib episodes as constant, as it is not uncommon for the episodes to become more frequent and constant over time. 

And so, the answer to your question of how long does an AFib episode last does variate.

The truth is that there is no one clear answer, as this is a question influenced by many different factors. Over the years, different types of AFib have been determined. It is worth mentioning that different types of AFib cause episodes that differentiate one from another by length and intensity. 

The Different Types of AFib

Simply referring to AFib as an irregular heartbeat is not enough. There is more to this story if you are interested in learning. How long does Atrial fibrillation last is influenced greatly by the type of AFib itself? 

Determining the exact type of AFib helps create a treatment plan that has a higher chance of treating the AFib.

Here are the four AFib types as determined by the 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS Guidelines for Management of Patients with Atrial fibrillation. You will quickly learn that each type characterizes itself with a different length of the AFib episode itself.

Paroxysmal AFib

With paroxysmal AFib, the episode begins and ends spontaneously. In this case, the irregular heartbeat usually lasts several seconds. In the worst-case scenario, the symptoms last up to a few weeks. Most symptoms resolve themselves, without the use of medications, within 24 hours. 

The symptoms of paroxysmal AFib tend to come and go. In some cases, no symptoms other than the irregular heartbeat itself may be present.

The treatment starts with lifestyle changes. Elimination of caffeine and reducing stress usually help eliminate paroxysmal AFib. In some cases, medication may be required. 

Persistent AFib

Like the paroxysmal AFib, the persistent AFib too has a tendency to start spontaneously. However, the difference is seen in the length of the episode itself—most patients with persistent AFib report experiencing symptoms longer than seven days. 

Although the symptoms tend to worsen over time, there are some asymptomatic cases of persistent AFib too.

The case of persistent AFib will not go away on its own unless proper medications have been used.

Some cases may even require a surgical procedure to be performed. The treatment plan may include anticoagulants, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers. 

Long-standing Persistent AFib

And last on this list is the most challenging type of AFib to treat – the long-standing persistent AFib. This type of AFib can last up to one year without any interruptions. In most cases, the cause of long-term AFib is structural heart damage. 

The long-standing persistent AFib causes symptoms that are constantly present.

Their presence usually causes anxiety and stress build-up in patients. These factors may make the symptoms even worse. In this case, more invasive treatment methods are used. Since medications, and lifestyle changes cannot eliminate the symptoms. Electrical cardioversion, catheter ablation, and pacemaker implantation are commonly used. 

Permanent AFib

Permanent AFib develops as a result of a long-standing persistent AFib. That has not been treated properly, or the treatment was not effective. With the permanent AFib, the patient continues to live their life while their heart is constantly in AFib. Unfortunately, research shows that the symptoms can evolve into much more serious and severe symptoms. 


To make a proper diagnosis, your doctor will ask how long does an AFib episode last in your case. He/she will also ask about the usual duration of the symptoms. Sharing any methods that you find useful at such times to decrease the present symptoms can be helpful as well. Identifying the potential cause that may lead to these symptoms is highly important as well. Make sure that you are ready to answer this type of question during your doctor’s visit. 

Something helpful for daily AFib monitoring and your doctor is a personal, portable ECG/EKG. These solutions can be used anywhere anytime with the assistance of your mobile device. In the blink of an eye, they evaluate your normal heart rate and heart rhythm trends. Therefore letting you draw conclusions about causes and triggers.

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