METOPROLOL, ATENOLOL, BISOPROLOL, CARVEDILOL, TIMOLOL, NEBIVOLOL, PROPRANOLOL, LABETALOL
- What Are Beta Blockers?
Beta blockers, also called ‘beta adrenergic blockers’, are a class of drugs that are used in the treatment of clinical conditions such as high blood pressure, angina and heart disease. They work by blocking the effects of hormones in the body called noradrenaline and adrenaline. Normally, noradrenaline and adrenaline increase the heart rate and blood pressure by acting upon and stimulating beta adrenergic receptors. By blocking the beta receptors, beta blockers –
1. Reduce the heart rate
2. Decrease the amount of work the heart has to do everyday
3. Open up the blood vessels, thus reducing the blood pressure.
- When Is It Prescribed?
Beta blockers are used in the treatment of the following conditions.
1. High blood pressure – It brings down the blood pressure slowly.
2. Angina / chest pain – Increases the blood flow to the heart muscle and reduces the work the heart has to do.
3. Heart failure (weak heart) – Reduces the work the heart has to do.
4. Glaucoma – Increased pressure within the eyes.
5. Overactive thyroid gland – It is useful in controlling symptoms
6. Migraine – It can reduce the number and severity of migraine attacks
7. Anxiety – Beta blockers have a relaxing effect on the body, and can reduce anxiety attacks.
The duration of treatment varies depending on the reason why they are taking the drug. For example, patients with high blood pressure may need treatment for life.
- What Are The Side Effects?
Common side effects of beta blockers include –
1. Heart rate slows down too much. Patients can feel dizzy or light-headed due to this.
2. Cold hands and feet may occur due to the constricting effect of beta blockers on the small blood vessels.
3. Patients with diabetes may lose the symptoms they normally experience if their sugars are too low. This is called ‘masking’ of low blood sugar symptoms.
4. Men can develop impotence and may become unable to attain and sustain an erection.
5. Low mood and excessive tiredness may be seen.
6. Patients who have asthma may develop wheezing. It is for this reason beta blockers are used with extreme caution in patients with asthma. New beta blockers do not necessarily affect the lungs and act only on the heart.
Beta blockers must be avoided in patients who have severe heart failure, in those with an extremely slow heart beat, in patients with very low blood pressure and in those who have a special type of angina called ‘Prinzmetals angina’.
If you develop any side effects, always discuss this with your doctor.
- How Do I Take Beta Blockers
Beta blockers are best taken with food. Taking them as prescribed at mealtimes can reduce the chances of patient developing side effects. If unable to take the medicine during meals, taking them immediately after is okay.
- Who Should Avoid Beta Blockers?
Patients who have asthma should avoid use of beta blockers. It should also not be taken by patients who have very low blood pressure.
You doctor will advise you about when you should and should not take beta blockers.
- I Am Pregnant. Is It Safe For Me To Take A Beta Blocker?
The available research shows that beta blockers may not be necessarily safe for the growing fetus, and hence they are ideally avoided. The only exception is labetalol, which is used in managing high blood pressure in pregnancy.
If you have any doubts or are concerned about your medication, always contact your doctor. If you are planning to get pregnant, then get the right advice.
- Are Beta Blockers Safe To Take When I Am Nursing My Baby?
No, they should be avoided. This is because they are expressed in breast milk. The feeding infant can develop a slow heart rate and low blood pressure. They may also develop breathing difficulties.
- I Missed A Dose, What Do I Do?
If you have missed a dose and there is still over 8 to 9 hours to take the next dose, then there is no harm in taking the beta blocker. If there is less than 8 hours left, then wait till it is time for the next dose.
We strongly recommend you contact your doctor to ensure that it is safe to do so.
- I Have Taken An Extra Dose, What Do I Do?
Firstly, don’t panic.
Pick up the phone and call your family doctor to discuss this issue further. They can advice you correctly.
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