Beta blockers

Beta blockers control the heart to stop it beating too fast or pumping too strongly, which brings down the blood pressure. One of their effects is to block the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine) which is what makes the heart race when we are stressed or excited.

This property makes them useful in keeping the heart from overwork in patients who have had a heart attack, and some can help patients who suffer from heart rhythm abnormalities. This same property means that they should be used with caution in patients who have heart failure.

Most drugs in this class should not be taken by patients with asthma or wheezy bronchitis because they can make the tightness of the airways worse. They may also mask warning symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) in diabetes patients which could risk them getting to dangerously low levels.

There are many varieties of this class of drugs and some newer ones can be used in cases of heart failure, others can be used safely in patients with asthma or even to treat heart failure. Your doctor will guide you.

Beta blockers can cause fatigue, cold extremities, bad dreams and erectile dysfuntion, though not in everyone.

Examples: Propranolol, carvedilol, labetalol.

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This page was last modified on : May 16, 2011.