Things you need to know about beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are medical medicines that function by temporarily blocking or reducing the natural ‘fight-or-flight’ responses of the body.

To addition, certain areas of the body, such as the heart and blood vessels to the brain, are stressed down. They lower blood pressure, protect against heart attacks and can boost outlook for heart disease people.

They are prescribed for different conditions like high blood pressure, angina, certain irregular heart rhythms, back, anxiety, migraine, glaucoma and symptoms of overactive thyroid.

They are also also called beta antagonists, beta-adrenergic blockers, or beta-adrenergic antagonists.

For his 1964 invention of the first receptor-blocking drug, propranolol, which is still in use today, pharmacologist James Black won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

Fast facts about beta-blockers

  • Beta-blockers are prescribed in conditions where the heart rate needs to be slowed.
  • Doctors commonly recommend beta-blockers for patients with irregular heartbeats, angina, and high blood pressure.
  • Beta-blockers also offer relief for glaucoma, overactive thyroid, and anxiety.
  • There are many different brands of beta-blocker.
  • Taking beta-blockers can cause dizziness, cold hands and feet, weight gain, and fatigue.

Function

Beta-blockers pills
Beta-blockers slow the heart beat to treat conditions in which the heart is under stress.

Beta-blockers block the receptors in the sympathetic nervous system: adrenaline and noradrenaline.

One of the autonomic nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system. It activates the ‘fight-or-flight’ response.

Adrenaline and noradrenaline activate the exertion of muscles in the body. It is a vital aspect of handling risk.

Over-exposure to these hormones may be harmful. Too much adrenaline can cause fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, anxiety and palpitations.

Blocking these hormone blockers release decreases the demands for oxygen and reduces stress on the heart.

This reduces the force of heart muscle contractions, and the blood vessels in the back, brain, and the rest of the body.

Beta-blockers also prevent angiotensin II, a hormone released by the kidneys, from development.

Reducing the amount of angiotensin relaxes and enlarges the blood vessels, softening blood flow into the arteries.

Beta-blockers are used to treat the following:

  • Angina, or chest pain
  • Heart failure
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure
  • Atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat
  • Myocardial infarction, or heart attack

Uses

Anxious lady
Beta-blockers can help to relieve the ‘fight-or-flight’ reactions that fuel anxiety.

They can be used less frequently for migraines, glaucoma, overactive thyroid, tremors and anxiety.

Glaucoma

With beta-blocker eye drops, the high pressure inside the eyeball is reduced. The drug reduces fluid development within the eyeball.

Anxiety

Beta-blockers block the Stress Hormone effects. In such a result, they will also decrease the physical anxiety symptoms such as tremor and sweating.

Nevertheless, a person with chronic anxiety may still require additional care, such as treatment.

Hyperactive thyroid and tremor

Beta-blockers can reduce symptoms such as tremor and slow the heart rate of patients with an overactive thyroid.

Types and brands

Beta-blockers can either be selective or non-selective. Selective beta-blockers affect mainly the nucleus, while non-selective ones affect other body parts.

Here are some common types and brands of beta-blockers:

  • acebutolol (Sectral, brand discontinued)
  • atenolol (Tenormin)
  • betaxolol (Kerlone, brand discontinued)
  • bisoprolol (Cardicor, Emcor, Zebeta all brands discontinued)
  • metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
  • nadolol (Corgard)
  • propranolol (Inderal LA, Inderal XL, Hemangeol, InnoPran XL)
  • timolol ophthalmic solution (Betimol, Istalol, Timoptic)

Side effects

The most common side effects of beta-blockers are:

  • cold feet and hands
  • fatigue
  • nausea, weakness, and dizziness
  • dry mouth, skin, and eyes
  • slow heartbeat
  • swelling of the hands and feet
  • weight gain

The following less common side effects are also possible:

Patients who feel dizzy or fatigued should not drive.

Cautions

A young man suffering from asthma
People with asthma should advise their doctor before taking beta-blockers.

People should advise their doctor if they have a history of the following before taking beta-blockers:

  • asthma
  • bronchospasm
  • severe peripheral arterial disease, including Raynaud’s syndrome
  • slow heart rate
  • uncontrolled heart failure

Beta-blockers can be taken by those with stable heart failure.

Patients with diabetes, especially hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, should monitor their blood sugar regularly, as beta-blockers can inhibit signs of low blood sugar, such as rapid heart beat.

When a doctor recommends other forms of beta-blockers can be used during pregnancy.

Interactions

Like all drugs, beta-blockers can interact with a variety of other medications.

As long ago as 1995, beta-blockers were found to be able to interfere with a number of different medicines.

These include:

  • Anti-hypertensives
  • Anti-anginal drugs
  • Anti-arrhythmics
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Anti-ulcer medications
  • Anesthetics
  • Warfarin
  • HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors

Different beta-blockers can have different interactions.

A pharmacist or doctor should be able to include a detailed and up-to-date list of interactions with the beta-blockers.

Please tell your treating doctor of any other drug courses you are currently taking.

Stopping a course of beta-blockers

Patients should not immediately quit taking beta-blockers without the guidance and close supervision of their doctor.

Suddenly ceasing treatment with beta-blocker can worsen the condition of the patient, particularly after a heart attack, or during angina treatment.

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