Beta-blockers are a versatile type of medication that can be used to treat a variety of different health conditions. Beta-blockers are also known as beta-adrenoreceptor blocking agents.
What are beta-blockers used for?
The most common uses of beta-blockers are:
- To treat high blood pressure (hypertension)
- To treat people that have had heart attacks
- To treat angina
- To treat heart failure
- To treat atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat)
Beta-blockers are also used to treat the following conditions:
- Overactive thyroid gland
How do beta-blockers work?
Beta-blockers work by stopping the production of a chemical known as noradrenaline. When used to treat heart conditions, beta-blockers help to take some of the stress off the heart, which helps to prevent heart attacks and pain associated with angina. Beta-blockers help to lower blood pressure by decreasing the force of the heart, which causes the pressure generated by the blood coming out of the heart to be reduced.
Are beta-blockers suitable for everyone?
Certain groups of people should avoid taking beta-blockers; these people include:
- People with asthma or a history of asthma
- People with a 2nd or 3rd degree heart block
- People with heart failure which is getting progressively worse
- People with peripheral artery problems, including those with Raynaud’s syndrome
Beta-blockers may also be unsuitable for people with other health conditions; it is important to discuss any symptoms or conditions you have with your GP before they prescribe beta-blockers.
Are there any side-effects?
Side-effects are common when taking beta-blockers but they are usually mild and do not last long. Common side-effects include:
- Slower heart rate
- Cold hands and feet
Less common side-effects include:
- Disturbed sleep patterns
If you are feeling tired as a result of disturbed sleep or as a direct result of taking beta-blockers you should avoid driving.