What do I need to know about cardiac glycosides?

Cardiac glycosides help your heart to beat more efficiently. This means your blood gets more oxygen and nutrients to your body cells.

When are cardiac glycosides prescribed?

Your doctor will prescribe this type of medicine when there is a concern about the contraction or pumping strength of your heart. Your doctor may also use cardiac glycosides to help control the rhythm of your heart, or treat an arrhythmia.

Common Names of Cardiac Glycosides

The following table lists some common brand and generic names for cardiac glycosides.

Cardiac Glycosides
brand generic
Lanoxicaps digoxin
Lanoxin digoxin

How Cardiac Glycosides Work

Cardiac glycosides work by acting directly on the cell membranes of heart fibers. They increase the contraction or pumping strength of the heartbeat. This is referred to as positive inotropic action. The heart can then pump more blood per beat through the body. Digoxin is normally used to work on the heart's pumping action. But digoxin can also be used to regulate the heart rate in some types of arrhythmia.

Possible Side Effects of Cardiac Glycosides

Possible side effects of cardiac glycosides include:

  • abdominal discomfort
  • blurred vision or the appearance of yellow, green, or white halos around objects, or other colored vision
  • irregular heartbeat
  • nausea
  • skin rash, hives, or itching
  • unusual weakness, tiredness, or drowsiness
  • vomiting

Let your doctor know right away if you experience any of these side effects.

Possible Drug Interactions with Cardiac Glycosides

Digoxin does not always work well with other medicines. Always tell your doctor about all the medicines that you take. Do not use any other medicine without your doctor's okay. This includes:

  • prescription medicines ordered by another doctor
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • herbal remedies
  • vitamins and minerals

It's best to keep an updated list of these and bring a copy to give to your doctor. That way you can add to it whenever you take something new or delete the types you no longer take. Make a copy for each of your doctors so that they can keep it in your file. This complete list helps your doctor be better prepared to prescribe a cardiac glycoside that is the least likely to interact with your other treatments.

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