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Beta Blockers: Uses, Types, and Side Effects

What are Beta Blockers?

Beta-blockers are a class of medicines most commonly used for problems involving your heart and your circulatory system. Doctors may also recommend them for your nervous system and brain conditions. It works by slowing down certain types of cell activity, which can help control blood pressure, heart rate, and more.

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Uses of Beta Blockers

These medications are recommended as a first treatment in people who have only high blood pressure. These are not usually prescribed for high blood pressure unless other medications, such as diuretics, are not working well. Also, a doctor may prescribe a beta blocker as one of several medications to lower blood pressure. Other uses include:

How Do Beta Blockers Work?

These medications work by decreasing the total peripheral resistance and as a result, the blood pressure fall. It reduces noradrenaline release from the sympathetic terminals due to beta-receptor blockade. The beta-receptor inhibition can cause a decrease in renin release from the kidney.

The Advantages of Beta Blockers

  1. These are effective for a wide range of medical problems. Because so many heart and circulatory problems are connected, using this medication to treat one problem can often benefit multiple related problems.
  2. These are being studied extensively. This medication has been in use for decades, with the first clinical trials for them taking place in the 1960s. Because of that, their effects are better understood, and it’s easier to use them safely and avoid negative effects.
  3. These are inexpensive.  These are typically very affordable, making it easier to ensure patients aren’t going without medications because they cannot afford the cost.

The Commonly Used Beta Blocker

Atenolol. It reduces cardiovascular complications in post-myocardial infarction patients. This medication has a longer duration of action and hence a dosage of once daily suffices. It also causes fewer CNS side effects and has a low risk of causing bronchoconstriction.

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What are the Side Effects of Beta Blockers?

  • Slow heartbeat and low blood pressure
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Weakness and dizziness
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Confusion and or memory loss
  • Erectile dysfunction

Who  Are Not Allowed to Take Beta Blockers?

This medication can negatively impact several diseases, conditions, and health concerns. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Slow heart rate or low blood pressure. Most blockers will aggravate either of these conditions by further lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon. This condition causes decreased circulation in your hands and feet and sometimes in parts of your face. 
  • Moderate to severe asthma. Nonselective medications can aggravate or cause an asthma attack or trouble breathing. People with milder respiratory problems may be prescribed B1-selective to minimize this, while people with moderate to severe respiratory problems will often avoid beta-blockers altogether.
  • Certain types of arrhythmias. It can aggravate some arrhythmias.
  • Hypoglycemia. It can delay feeling most of the effects of low blood sugar. For people with conditions that cause low blood sugar like diabetes, this can delay taking action to stabilize blood sugar levels. If the levels drop too low, you may become confused, pass out or have seizures. A key symptom of low blood sugar that blockers don’t cover is sweating.

Warning and Precautions When Using Beta Blockers

  • The dosage of prescriptions should be adjusted in patients with severe renal impairment.
  • This should not be taken together with disopyramide as it can cause severe bradycardia and heart failure.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid complications.
  • In cases of severe side effects, ensure to seek immediate help or go to the nearest health facility for medical attention. 
  • Avoid stopping the medications if the treatment period is not over.
  • Take your medications at the same time each day to get the most benefits during the treatment course.
  • Inform your doctor if you have drug allergies or if you are taking other medications before.  

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