Can afib last only a few seconds?

Can AFib Last Only a Few Seconds?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition that causes an irregular and rapid heartbeat. For people living with AFib, the heart may beat too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly. The duration of this condition can vary significantly, and one common question asked by patients is, “Can AFib last only a few seconds?”

The answer is, yes, AFib can last only a few seconds or minutes, and this condition is known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Paroxysmal AFib comes and goes, and it may be difficult to detect during its brief episodes. Although paroxysmal AFib doesn’t pose an immediate threat to the patient’s health, it can cause some uncomfortable symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Paroxysmal AFib?

Paroxysmal AFib symptoms can include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can be mild or severe, and they may or may not occur during an episode.

What Causes Paroxysmal AFib?

Paroxysmal AFib is caused by the same factors that contribute to persistent and permanent AFib. These factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease or damage
  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Heart failure
  • Obesity
  • Stress and anxiety

However, the exact cause of individual episodes of paroxysmal AFib may be difficult to identify.

How is Paroxysmal AFib Diagnosed?

Paroxysmal AFib is diagnosed through a medical evaluation that may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Electrophysiology study (EPS)
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
  • Portable heart rhythm monitors

During these tests, a physician can monitor and record the heart’s electrical activity and detect any irregularities. If a patient experiences symptoms of paroxysmal AFib, they may be asked to perform a heart monitor test for several days to capture an episode.

How is Paroxysmal AFib Treated?

Paroxysmal AFib treatment is focused on managing symptoms and preventing complications. Treatment options may include:

  • Medications to control heart rhythm and rate
  • Anticoagulants to reduce the risk of stroke
  • Cardioversion to restore normal heart rhythm
  • Ablation procedures to eliminate areas of the heart that trigger AFib

Treatment options are typically evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and patients should discuss their options with their healthcare provider.

What are the Risk Factors for Paroxysmal AFib?

Several factors can increase the risk of developing paroxysmal AFib, including:

  • Age (as AFib is more prevalent in older individuals)
  • High blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Heredity
  • Thyroid problems
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Heavy alcohol consumption and smoking


Paroxysmal AFib is a less severe form of atrial fibrillation that can occur for only a few seconds. However, even brief episodes of paroxysmal AFib can cause uncomfortable symptoms and carry a risk of complications. If you experience any AFib symptoms, including irregular heartbeats, dizziness, or shortness of breath, contact your healthcare provider.


  1. “Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation” by Cedars-Sinai, accessed November 2021,
  2. “Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation” by the American Heart Association, accessed November 2021,
  3. “Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation” by the Mayo Clinic, accessed November 2021,


  • Q: Can I live with paroxysmal AFib without treatment?
  • A: Paroxysmal AFib may not require treatment if symptoms are mild and don’t occur frequently. However, it’s important to monitor your condition and manage any underlying health problems that may contribute to AFib.
  • Q: Can coffee trigger paroxysmal AFib?
  • A: Caffeine intake can cause or trigger an irregular heartbeat, including paroxysmal AFib. Limiting caffeine intake or avoiding it altogether can help reduce the risk of AFib episodes.
  • Q: Can stress cause paroxysmal AFib?
  • A: Stress and anxiety can trigger AFib or worsen existing AFib symptoms. Reducing stress levels through exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques may help improve AFib symptoms.
  • Q: Is paroxysmal AFib a lifelong condition?
  • A: Paroxysmal AFib may occur in episodes, but it can progress to a more persistent form of AFib over time. Proper management of this condition can help reduce the risk of progression and improve symptoms.