What are the Most Common Side Effects of Beta-Blockers?
Beta-blockers are a group of medications that lower blood pressure. They are used to prevent or treat various cardiovascular conditions. Some of the more common conditions they are used to treat include:
- Heart attack
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Anxiety disorders
- Hyperthyroidism – overactive thyroid
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Social phobias
What are Beta Blockers?
A class of medications that block beta-adrenergic substances including adrenaline, which is a key element in the autonomic nervous system’s sympathetic features and heart muscle activation. By blocking involuntary nervous system actions on the heart, these drugs will relieve the stress on the heart by slowing down the heart muscle. These drugs are most often used for irregular heart rates, chest pain, heart attacks, and other heart problems or cardiovascular issues.
How Do Beta-Blockers Do Their Job?
Beta-blockers block adrenaline’s effects, which is a hormone also known as epinephrine. These hormones cause the heart to beat slower and with less force, lowering the individual’s blood pressure. They also help to improve blood flow by opening blood vessels. There are some beta-blockers that just affect the heart. Other beta-blockers affect the blood vessels and the heart.
There are many kinds of beta-blockers, but some are prescribed more frequently than others. Here are the beta-blockers that are prescribed most often:
- Toprol XL
- Inderal and Inderal LA
The Most Common Side Effects
Just like other medications, beta-blockers do have side effects. Some side effects are more common, meaning that they are much more likely to be experienced by more users. Here are some of the more common beta-blocker side effects:
- Stomach upset
- Dry mouth, eyes, and skin
- Cold feet and hands
Some of the less common side effects that individuals might suffer include:
- Joint pain
- Back pain
- Memory loss
- Skin rash
- Sore throat
- Swelling of the feet and/or hands
- Slow heartbeat
- Sleeping difficulty
- Weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- CNS system effects
- Blurred vision
- Hair loss
- Serious heart issues
Precautions When Taking Beta-Blockers
If you have specific chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, you should talk with your doctor before you start taking a beta blocker. These drugs can mask the symptoms of low blood sugar and they can also trigger a serious asthma attack. You should discuss all your medical conditions with your healthcare provider before you start taking this medication. Your doctor will know if the benefits outweigh the risks.
There are some other medications that you might be prescribed that could interact with beta-blockers. Some of those medications include:
- Antacids that include aluminum
- Diabetic medications, including insulin
- Allergy shots
- Medications for lung and breathing disorders, such as chronic bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, or asthma
- Over-the-counter cold, allergy, or cough medications
- Other high blood pressure medication
Other Beta Blocker Warnings
When you are taking beta-blockers, you should avoid drinking products that contain caffeine or alcohol, since those drugs can affect how the beta-blockers work in your body. If you are pregnant or might become pregnant while taking a beta-blocker, you should talk with your doctor right away. Also, if you are breastfeeding, you should talk with your healthcare provider before you take a beta blocker.
There are some groups that might not get as good results from beta-blockers. Studies have shown that beta-blockers often don’t work as well for people who are of African descent as they do for other ethnic or racial groups. Also, older individuals, especially those older than 60, are more likely to suffer unwanted side effects from the drugs.
Talking Your Treatment Over With Your Physician
If you have been prescribed a beta blocker to treat a condition, you should talk about the medication benefits and side effects over with your healthcare provider. If you notice worsening side effects, or side effects that make your daily life difficult or disrupt your daily activities, you should let your healthcare provider know because your medication might need to be adjusted or changed.
In general, beta-blockers are very effective drugs and are one of the more commonly prescribed medications today. Because it can treat multiple disorders, it might be effective in addressing multiple health issues and symptoms that you are facing. If you are taking a beta blocker that causes serious side effects and disrupts your life, your provider can prescribe a different one, which you might be able to tolerate much better.