There is currently no cure for atrial fibrillation. However, treatments, such as beta-blockers and electrical cardioversion, can help control symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heart rhythm. If it causes symptoms, people may experience a faster heart rate, dizziness, or chest pain.

This article looks at whether there is a cure for AFib, if it goes away by itself, treatments, and lifestyle changes to manage AFib.

A doctor taking a blood pressure measurement from a person with atrial fibrillation.-2Share on Pinterest
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There is currently no cure for AFib, but treatments can help manage symptoms and prevent complications.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), AFib may go away by itself, but only rarely. The term for this is “spontaneous remission.” Doctors will still monitor people for AFib, as it is possible for people to have the condition without symptoms.

People may have episodes of AFib, which come and go and may sometimes resolve without treatment.

Treatment may help restore a regular heart rhythm in some people, while in others, AFib may be more frequent or permanent, and an irregular heart rhythm persists.

Doctors may prescribe medications for AFib to control the heart rate and irregular rhythm. Medications can also help prevent complications, such as blood clots.

Medications for AFib may include the following:

Heart rate control medications

Certain medications can help slow a fast heart rate. These may reduce AFib symptoms, allowing people to function better, and include:

Heart rhythm control medications

After controlling the heart rate, doctors may use certain medications to restore an irregular heart rhythm to a typical rhythm. These include:

  • sodium channel blockers, such as:
    • flecainide (Tambocor)
    • propafenone (Rythmol)
    • quinidine (Quinidex)
  • potassium channel blockers, such as:

Heart rhythm control medications can cause significant side effects, so a doctor will monitor people closely while they are taking these drugs.

Anticlotting medications

AFib can increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to stroke. To help prevent this, doctors may prescribe anticlotting medications, such as:

Along with medications, lifestyle changes can help treat AFib. A healthcare professional may recommend changes that support heart health, such as:

If medications and lifestyle changes are not effectively managing AFib symptoms, doctors may recommend certain procedures. These may include:

  • Electrical cardioversion: Electric cardioversion delivers mild electric shocks to the heart to restore a regular heart rhythm.
  • Catheter ablation: Catheter ablation involves passing a catheter — a flexible tube — through the blood vessels to the heart. A machine delivers radiofrequency, laser light, or extreme cold to destroy the tissue causing the irregular heart rhythm.
  • Pacemaker: A pacemaker is an implanted device that delivers electrical pulses to the heart to maintain a regular rate and rhythm.
  • Left atrial appendage closure: The left atrial appendage (LAA) is a small pouch in the heart’s upper left chamber. Closing the opening to the LAA prevents stroke-causing blood clots from forming.
  • Maze procedure: This surgery creates scars on the heart’s upper left chamber to restore a regular heart rhythm.

People may have a surgical procedure for AFib if they are also having surgery for another heart condition. These procedures can cause side effects and complications, so it is important to discuss these with a doctor beforehand.

Treatment may include treating any underlying conditions that may be causing or increasing the risk of AFib, such as:

Below are answers to some common questions about treating AFib.

Can a person with AFib live a long life?

According to a 2020 long-term study, survival rates for people with AFib 10 years after diagnosis have significantly improved over 45 years.

People with AFib may now have a more similar life expectancy to those without AFib, but they may still live 2 years less than people without the condition.

Does atrial fibrillation go away on its own?

According to the AHA, AFib may resolve by itself, but this is rare.

It is important to contact a doctor if people have symptoms of AFib, as it can increase the risk of heart problems and stroke. The longer AFib goes without treatment, the more difficult it may be to restore a regular heart rhythm.

What is a dangerous heart rate with AFib?

According to a 2022 article, a heart rate of over 120 beats per minute (bpm) with AFib requires medical evaluation.

A heart rate of over 150 bpm may lead to hemodynamic instability, which means there is not enough blood flow to the body.

Although there is currently no cure for atrial fibrillation, treatments can help control symptoms and prevent complications.

While rare, AFib may resolve by itself, but a doctor will still monitor people, as it can increase the risk of stroke and heart problems.

Treatments for AFib may include medications, surgical procedures, and lifestyle changes. People should speak with a doctor to discover the best option for them.