What Is Persistent Atrial Fibrillation?

What Is Persistent Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of heart condition characterized by an irregular and often fast heart rate. There are three types of the disorder, including paroxysmal AFib (symptoms come and go), persistent AFib (symptoms last longer than a week, the heart becomes unable to control and regulate its rate), and permanent AFib (symptoms last for over a year, a chronic condition despite treatment).

Atrial fibrillation itself is a progressive disease meaning that a person would first develop paroxysmal AFib, which if left untreated will progress to persistent AFib, and eventually permanent AFib. Luckily, persistent atrial fibrillation is a treatable condition and with the right treatment, you can prevent developing the permanent type of the heart disorder.

That said, let’s have a closer look at everything you need to know about persistent atrial fibrillation. Continue reading to find out more.


First, you have to learn about the symptoms so that you are able to identify the need for professional medical help and treatment. In short, atrial fibrillation symptoms include:

  • Racing heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

In case you have any of these symptoms daily, for seven days straight, you may be diagnosed with persistent AFib. However, understand that atrial fibrillation could also develop without any symptoms, i.e., it could be asymptomatic.

Risk Factors

Furthermore, we have to discuss the common risk factors for persistent AFib and the possible causes of the condition, which include:

  • A history of heart attacks
  • A family history of AFib
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve disorder
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Severe infections
  • Sleep apnea
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Overuse of caffeine
  • Advanced age
  • Stress

If you fit many of these risk factors, you’d better consult your doctor and pay attention to your lifestyle habits, as well as managing current chronic conditions, so that you are able to reduce the risk of getting AFib.


A mix of physical exams and tests should be performed to be diagnosed with persistent atrial fibrillation. For earlier AFib stages an electrocardiogram may be used as it is the initial diagnostic tool. For more advanced stages, as well as for persistent AFib, your doctor may ask for other tests, including:

  • Chest X-rays – to examine the heart chambers and valves
  • Echocardiogram – to detect heart damage
  • Cardiac event recorder – to measure symptoms over a period of time
  • Exercise stress test – to measure heartbeat after physical activity
  • Blood tests – to search for underlying causes of AFib


As already noted, in persistent AFib the heart isn’t able to control itself, but fortunately, medical treatment can help in managing the condition. Potential persistent atrial fibrillation treatment options include:

  • Heart rate control medications

The main goal of treating persistent AFib is to slow down a fast heart rate. Beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin (Lanoxin) are the typical medications prescribed for this purpose. They reduce electrical activities in the upper and lower heart chambers.

  • Heart rhythm control medications

Other options may sometimes be used together with the above-mentioned to stabilize heart rhythm. These are known as antiarrhythmic medications and include amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone), dofetilide (Tikosyn), flecainide, propafenone, and sotalol (Betapace).

  • Blood clot medications

People with AFib are at higher risk of stroke and heart attack. So, to lower this risk, you may be prescribed a blood clotting medication, typically blood thinners also known as anticoagulants. Some examples include rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and warfarin (Coumadin).

To conclude, AFib is quite a serious condition that seeks medical treatment. Luckily, medications can help you manage the disorder. And, if these don’t help, you may undergo a surgical procedure, like catheter ablation, for example, to help control heart rate in persistent AFib. Finally, lifestyle changes are also crucial, like following a healthy diet, stress management, and exercise.