Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is a common, poorly understood and difficult-to-treat arrhythmia. Although it tends to be treated in a similar fashion to chronic atrial fibrillation, its pathophysiology is different, and drugs commonly used for chronic atrial fibrillation may have only limited value in treating paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. A broad range of presenting clinical symptoms may be associated with this arrhythmia, and even in the asymptomatic patient, there may be a risk of serious thromboembolic events. In symptomatic patients, effective control of paroxysms with antiarrhythmic therapy can often be difficult, and the role of anticoagulation remains controversial. This review attempts to clarify these issues, by surveying the range of therapies available.