Beta Blocker Therapy

What are Beta blockers?

Beta-blockers come under the category of competitive antagonists that block the receptor sites for the adrenalin and nor adrenaline of the sympathetic nervous system. Both are responsible for fighting or flight response of the body, this type of response results in increased heart rhythm and blood pressure.

Beta-blockers limit the activity of the beta receptors that are found on the smooth muscles, heart muscles, kidneys, arteries, etc. Moreover, adrenaline is a hormone that causes stress, thus by disrupting the binding of the receptors of such hormones, beta-blockers help in controlling stress. They are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and prevent a second heart attack after the first attack.

What is Beta Blocker Therapy?

The use of beta blocker class of medication to treat health issues such as hypertension, abnormal heart rhythms or to prevent heart attacks is known as beta-blocker therapy.

Common Beta Blockers

  • Bisoprolol
  • Nebivolol
  • Propranolol
  • Metoprolol
  • Atenolol
  • Carvedilol
  • Acebutolol
  • Nadolol Image Source:

When is Beta Blocker Therapy used?

Beta Blocker therapy can treat the following conditions:

  • Chronic stable angina: Occurring mainly due to exertion, it leads to reduction in blood supply to the heart muscles t causes chest pain. Beta-blockers reduce the heart rate and the myocardial oxygen demand. Prinzmetal’s angina is a special condition in which the patient must not be given non-selective beta blockers as they can worsen the situation.
  • High blood pressure: Beta blockers are used to treat high blood pressure and are also effective in cases where the individual has suffered a heart attack. Moreover, it can also help in treating people suffering from hypertension with angina. It can also lower the chances of strokes and coronary heart diseases.
  • Mitral stenosis: Mitral stenosis is a narrowing of the opening between the left ventricle and left atrium. Use of beta-blocker therapy can help to treat this condition.
  • Glaucoma: It refers to a condition of increased pressure on the eye that could damage the optic nerve. Beta-blockers such as timolol, carteolol, metipranolol, betaxolol, etc. can be used to treat glaucoma.
  • A migraine, Overactive thyroid & Anxiety: The beta blocker Propranolol is used to treat migraine as well as facial blushing, palpitations and sweating that occur as symptoms of anxiety. Propranolol also helps to treat individuals with an overactive thyroid.
  • Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy: It is a condition in which the heart muscles become abnormally thick. Since the beta blockers work to control the receptors present in the heart muscles, they are also used to treat this condition.
  • Heart failure: Bisoprolol, carvedilol, nebivolol and long-acting meto prolol are all beta blockers that can reduce the risks that accompany heart failure. It has been observed beta blockers have been able to reduce the risk of death by 30% and the chances of hospitalization by 40% in case of heart failure. Moreover, there has been a reduction of 38% in the risk of sudden death among people who suffer from long-term heart failure.
  • Post Heart Attack: It is also given to people who have already experienced a heart attack to prevent a second attack. Carvedilol and metoprolol are beta blockers that can lower the risk of death due to heart attack and prevent heart attacks in future, especially for those who have cardiac ischemia or left ventricular dysfunction.
  • Prevents Bleeding: Bleeding is common among people with chronic liver diseases and portal hypertension along with oesophagal varices. Beta-blocker therapy helps to treat and prevent such type of bleeding.
  • Arrhythmias: Beta-blocker therapy is also beneficial in case of abnormal heart rhythms. Sotalol, esmolol and propranolol are medicines that can reduce chances of cardiac death due to ventricular arrhythmia and treat inherited Long QT syndrome.

Symptoms of Beta Blockers

  • Blurred vision
  • Tiredness
  • Slow heart-beat
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Problems getting and maintaining an erection
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Joint and back pain
  • Weight gain
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dry mouth, skin and eyes
  • Constipation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Swelling of hands and feet

Beta Blockers Precautions

Individuals who are subject to the following conditions must consult a general physician before taking beta blockers:

  • Lung diseases or asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Bronchospasm
  • Raynaud’s syndrome or other peripheral arterial disease
  • Uncontrolled heart failure
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Kidney disease
  • Allergic reaction to any medication
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding

A doctor’s suggestion must also be taken before stopping the consumption of beta blockers suddenly as it may cause further health complications.

Interaction with other medicines

Another important point that people must keep in mind is to inform their doctor about any other medication that they may be taking because beta blockers tend to interact with other medicines and cause certain alterations in the course of their effect.

Following are some of the medicines that beta blockers interact with:

  • Antipsychotics: Treatment of severe mental health problems
  • Clonidine: Treat a migraine and high blood pressure
  • Antihypertensive: Lower blood pressure
  • Mefloquine: Prevent & treat malaria
  • Anti-arrhythmic: Control irregular heartbeats
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Anti-angina drugs
  • Warfarin
  • Anesthetics
  • HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors
  • Anti-ulcer medication

Administering Beta Blockers

  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women should always consult a doctor before taking betaking beta blockers because they can affect the growing fetus. Some of the problems that could be passed on from the mother to the child are slow heart rate, low blood sugar level, low blood pressure and difficulty in breathing. Moreover, these problems could be transferred due to breastfeeding as well.
  • Adults: Beta blockers are usually given to adults in lower doses.
  • Children: Problems such as high blood pressure, migraine, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, etc. in children can be treated by the intake of beta blockers.

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