Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is becoming a common health issue for more and more people. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent serious complications that can happen because of it. But to properly treat it, your doctor first needs to identify the exact condition you have from all types of atrial fibrillation that you are dealing with.
And so, today, we are here to discuss the different types of AFib. You may be wondering – are there two types of AFib or more? But most importantly, we will be discussing the treatment options for each of these forms of AFib.
The Different Types of Atrial Fibrillation and How Are They Treated
Over the years, doctors have successfully determined four different types of atrial fibrillation. With the evolution of diagnostic methods and techniques, it has become easier to properly discover the characteristics of each of the four types.
Today we know of paroxysmal, persistent, long-standing persistent, and permanent AFib.
Because of their unique characteristics, the doctors have designed different treatment plans for each type. Although there are some similarities between their characteristics and treatments, there are noticeable differences as well.
1. Paroxysmal AFib
The term paroxysm refers to a sudden episode or a symptom of a disease.
In the case of paroxysmal AFib, the symptoms tend to start suddenly and resolve without any treatment.
An irregular heartbeat can last between a few seconds and a few weeks. In most cases, the symptoms resolve within 24 hours, without the use of medications. Science suggests that about half of the AFib cases are, in fact, cases of paroxysmal AFib.
If you have paroxysmal AFib, the doctor can recommend some methods to help the heart rhythm return to normal. Cardioversion is the usual method of use, with electroshock being used to reset the heart rhythm. Because these patients are exposed to the risk of stroke, the doctor may also prescribe anticoagulant drugs. Anticoagulant drugs make it harder for the blood to form clots, thus preventing stroke from happening.
2. Persistent AFib
Persistent AFib also tends to happen spontaneously.
In the case of persistent AFib, the patients experience the symptoms longer than seven days.
Unlike paroxysmal AFib, the case of persistent AFib is always treated with proper medications.
Anticoagulant drugs are also commonly prescribed to these patients. The treatment may also include beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. These drugs help control the heart rate. Cardioversion may also be in order to help the heart rhythm return to normal.
3. Long-standing Persistent AFib
As the name suggests, the long-standing persistent AFib continues for a long time. Despite the proper treatment being used, the symptoms do not go away for over one year. This is considered to be a more advanced form of AFib and, as such, more difficult to be managed.
One of the primary treatment goals is the prevention of blood clots. Anticoagulant drugs are always prescribed. The doctor also focuses on restoring the normal heart rhythm. That can be done with the use of antiarrhythmics. Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers are also used to help slow down the heart rate.
Unfortunately, the use of such medications rarely helps in the case of long-standing persistent AFib. More invasive methods, such as cardioversion and catheter ablation, may be used as well.
During the catheter ablation, the doctor uses either heat or freezing to help destroy the faulty electrical signals. By doing so, he/she aims to either correct or control the abnormal heart rhythm.
4. Permanent AFib
In case the long-standing persistent AFib has not been treated properly, it tends to transform into permanent AFib. The patients diagnosed with permanent AFib continue to live their lives with this condition. Together, with their doctor, they discuss whether or not they will continue their treatment.
With permanent AFib, the main focus is to prevent stroke.
As research suggests, this condition causes the symptoms to evolve, putting the patient’s life at risk.
These patients are being treated with the use of anticoagulant drugs to help reduce the risk of stroke. Other medications, such as antiarrhythmic drugs, are commonly used as well, to help maintain the heart rhythm as normal as possible.
Things You Should Know to Deal With AFib
Something that is applied to each of these four different types is lifestyle changes. Apart from the use of medications, doctors recommend a series of lifestyle changes to their patients. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), these patients are advised to perusing a low-sodium and low-fat diet.
The patients are advised to quit smoking, as well as limit their caffeine and alcohol intake. Regular physical activity can help prevent a number of health issues that can potentially complicate AFib. Such issues would be obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.
And because patients with AFib tend to have high anxiety levels due to experiencing AFib daily, relaxation is a key factor. Proper relaxation can help reduce damage. Yoga and meditation seem to be the most helpful methods so far.
It is very important to monitor your heart regularly because that increases the chances to detect negative changes that can lead to other problems like stroke. You can make heart check a healthy daily habit with electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) devices and connected apps. These solutions let you monitor the heart on your own and share results with a doctor from your phone. Depending on the specific product these solutions can detect signs of different arrhythmias and heart abnormalities, allowing doctors to act before the emergency occurs.
Are you experiencing AFib? If so, you need to receive proper treatment. With proper treatment, you will be able to reduce the risk of complications and improve your quality of life. But before you could ever take any medications, your doctor needs to identify which of the four forms of AFib are you dealing with.