What should I know about beta-blockers?

Beta-blockers were originally used to treat high blood pressure or hypertension. They can also be used for heart conditions, such as angina or chest pain and irregular heartbeats, as well as for heart attack prevention. In eye-drop form they have been used to treat increased eye pressure or glaucoma. When taken properly, they are also effective in preventing headaches. They are not, though, recommended for stopping headaches in progress.

How do I take beta-blockers?

Follow these tips to get the most effective use from beta-blockers.


  • For them to work right, you need to take beta blockers on a regular basis. That means you need to take them even if you feel well.
  • Remember to fill your prescriptions and refills on time to avoid missed doses.
  • Make sure that you have enough medication to last on weekends and holidays or when you travel.
  • Some conditions may worsen if you stop taking beta-blockers suddenly. So do not stop taking a beta-blocker without first checking with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to reduce your dose gradually before you stop.

How do beta-blockers work?

Beta-blockers work by changing certain nerve impulses at different areas in your body. Because of this, they are very effective in treating many types of problems.

How they work to prevent headaches is unclear. They seem to work by blocking the nerve impulses that trigger migraine headaches.

What are the possible side effects from using beta-blockers and what should I do about them?

Check with your doctor right away if any of the following occur while you're taking a beta-blocker:

  • shortness of breath
  • slow or irregular heartbeat (especially fewer than 50 beats per minute)
  • swelling of your ankles, feet, or lower legs
  • wheezing

You should also seek immediate advice if you develop any of the following:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness when getting up from a sitting or lying position
  • feelings of depression
  • pains in your back or chest
  • skin rashes
  • visual changes

Other side effects can occur while you're taking beta-blockers. Some may go away with time as you continue to take your medication. If they persist, you should call your doctor. These side effects may include:

  • abnormal dreams
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • decreased sexual ability
  • nervousness or feeling anxious
  • poor circulation in your hands and feet
  • sleeping problems
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

What are the possible drug interactions with beta-blockers?

Talk with your pharmacist or doctor about possible drug interactions with beta-blockers. You should tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the other medications you are taking as well as about any other medical conditions you have. These include conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, thyroid disease, kidney disease, liver disease, depression, and diabetes - especially if you are taking insulin. It is important to keep your regular appointments so that your doctor can monitor your progress while you take these medications.


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