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What exactly are beta blockers and when are they used?

Beta blockers are medications that the doctors prescribe when various heart problems need to be treated, although the conditions that affect blood vessel are also treated with these medications. Arrhythmia, hypertension, angina, heart failure, heart attack and glaucoma are only some of these problems. Still, in the majority of cases, diuretics, calcium channel blockers or some other medications will be given a chance first, and only after them, beta blockers will be suggested.

On the other side, besides these conditions, the medications in question are officially approved for the treatment of migraine headaches, hyperthyroidism, generalized anxiety disorder and certain types of tremors. As for their mechanism of action, they tend to block beta receptors to which adrenaline and other stress hormones bind, which is how they cause problems in form of increased heart rate or blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels and others. By blocking these receptors, beta blockers usually cause the opposite effect of the hormones in question, although not always, because sometimes they might also worsen the problems with breathing, for example.

What side effects can be experienced when taking beta blockers?

First of all, it is important to point out that this medication is well tolerated by the majority of people who take it. Side effects happen rarely, but the patients need to be informed about them in order to recognize them in time if any of them occurs. Those that are regarded as less serious in nature are slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, cold hands and feet, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and various gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation and upset stomach. On the other side, those that require consultations with the doctor who prescribed the medications include feeling of lightheadedness or even fainting, pain in the chest, symptoms that indicate heart failure (swelling of hands and feet, shortness of breath) or allergic reaction, as well as depression, problems with sleeping and loss of sex drive. All of them are serious and none of them should not be ignored because the consequences might even be fatal in such case.

Due to the increased risk of complications and side effects, the doctors are advised to carefully consider whether they will prescribe them to people who suffer from diabetes, liver diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, myasthenia gravis, heart block, and problems with kidneys. Since they affect the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, the doctors should be careful when dealing with the patients who have these problems as well.  

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