Beta Blockers: Uses and Side Effects

There are a number of definitions on Beta Blockers (also written as β Blockers). 

  • “Beta Blockers are a class of heart drugs that block the effect of adrenaline on the heart”.
  • “Beta Blockers are front-line drugs for cardiac patients especially for those with angina, arrhythmias or post-myocardial infarction.”
  • “Beta Blockers are a family of medicines that are actually used in a variety of fields of medicine, including psychiatry.” 

Beta Blockers can be used for treating some types of heart disease.  The drug improves the heart’s ability to relax.  It helps to decrease the product of harmful substances produced by the body due to heart failure and also slow the heart rate.  Beta Blockers improve the heart’s ability to pump. 

β Blockers are often prescribed for the following heart conditions:

  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Angina
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart attack

The drug is also prescribed for glaucoma, migraine, head-ache and hyperthyroidism. Those who have extremely low blood pressure (hypotension) and a slow pulse (Brady-cardiac) should not use the drug. Once the drug is started it should not be stopped without consulting the physician even if the patient feels that the medicine is not working. Use of Beta Blockers on long term helps to manage chronic heart failure. In some cases when the patient starts with the medicine, the heart failure symptoms may become worse for about 2½ months while the heart adjusts to the medicine.  Though this is a normal effect the doctor should be informed if the patient becomes extremely tired, gain more than 5 pounds, have trouble breathing or have other signs of congestion or swelling.  Once the heart adjusts with the drug, the patient will feel better.
The usual side effects of the medicine are:

  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Severe vomiting

Use of Beta Blockers during pregnancy may cause, in the baby, slowed heart rate, low blood sugar or low blood pressure. For elderly people lower doses should be prescribed.  They often have more side effects.