If you find your heart racing without cause, it can be disorienting. New-onset AFib has many causes, and if it persists, talk with a doctor about testing.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of abnormal heart rate, also called an arrhythmia. People with AFib have a heart rate that’s very fast, typically more than 100 beats per minute, and very irregular.

AFib happens because faulty electrical signals in your heart cause heart muscle contractions that are out of rhythm. Sometimes, AFib develops slowly and as a symptom of another condition. But it’s also possible for it to develop suddenly as “new‌-onset AFib”.

New-onset AFib doesn’t always cause symptoms. Sometimes, it’s discovered when you’re having tests for another medical condition or during a routine medical exam. When AFib does cause symptoms, they can include:

AFib can also lead to more serious symptoms and complications. These include:

Is it OK to be in AFib for a few days?

Sometimes, episodes of AFib last for a few days. These episodes can resolve on their own, and they’re not always dangerous. This is called paroxysmal AFib. It’s a type of AFib that causes episodes that last between a few minutes and a few days.

But paroxysmal AFib can lead to other types of AFib and chronic dangerous heart rhythms. This means that while a single episode of AFib that lasts a few days is unlikely to be harmful, it’s worth mentioning at your next medical appointment. This allows a healthcare professional to keep an eye on your pulse rate and your heart health.

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There are four types of AFib:

  • Paroxysmal AFib: Paroxysmal AFib is AFib that comes and goes with symptoms that last minutes, hours, or days. Episodes can resolve on their own, but some people with this type of AFib need treatment.
  • Persistent AFib: People with persistent AFib have a constant irregular heart rhythm for more than 7 days.
  • Long-stand persistent AFib: This is a persistent AFib that lasts longer than 12 months.
  • Permanent AFib: People with permanent AFib have an irregular heart rate that can’t be reset without medication.

New-onset AFib might be paroxysmal, persistent, or permanent. It might take testing or trials of treatment for a doctor to confirm which type you have.

There are multiple factors that can lead to new-onset AFib. Many of these factors are also factors that affect the overall health of your heart. But new-onset AFib can also be caused by factors such as infections or substance use.

New-onset AFib might be caused by:

A treatment plan for new-onset AFib will vary depending on factors such as your overall health, your heart health, and the medications you already take. Treatment for AFib will focus on both reducing your risk of serious complications, such as stroke, and bringing down your heart rate. Common treatments include:

  • Medications to slow your heart: Medications such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers are commonly used to slow down your heart rate.
  • Medications to control your heart rate: Medications called anti-arrythimatics can help control your heart’s rhythm.
  • Medications to prevent stroke: Medications called blood thinners can prevent clots and reduce your risk of a stroke.
  • Catheter ablation: Catheter ablation is a surgical procedure that uses very hot or very cold temperatures to isolate and treat damaged heart muscle to resolve symptoms of AFib.
  • Maze procedure: During a maze procedure, a surgeon creates purposeful scarring that changes how the electrical signals in and around your heart travel. This can help treat AFib.

AFib is a heart arrhythmia that can develop at any time. New-onset AFib can be the result of factors such as viral infections, heart health conditions, recent surgery, or substance use.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and on a person’s overall health. Treatment often includes medications to control and slow down your pulse along with medication to stop clots, but surgery is also an option.