What Does "AFib" Mean?

"AFib" is shorthand for atrial fibrillation, which is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that typically causes poor blood flow. The condition also leads to blood clots, stroke and heart failure. As of December 2014, an estimated 2.7 million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation.

During episodes of atrial fibrillation, the heart's atria beat irregularly and out of sync with the two ventricles. The damage to the heart's electrical system that causes the irregular beating typically results from other conditions such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness are typical symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

There are three varieties of atrial fibrillation: paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, persistent atrial fibrillation and permanent atrial fibrillation. Patients suffering from the paroxysmal variety experience a sudden rapid heartbeat that resolves on its own, typically in less than 24 hours but occasionally up to a week. Patients suffering from the persistent variety experience rapid heartbeats that persist longer than one week. The condition stops naturally or with treatment.

For those suffering from permanent atrial fibrillation, there is no treatment that can restore a normal heart rhythm. Over time, patients who suffer from the paroxysmal and persistent varieties can develop the condition permanently.