What is a beta-blocker, and how does it work?
In medicine, “beta-blockers,” which are also called “beta-adrenergic blocking agents,” are drugs that lower blood pressure. A beta-blocker works by preventing the stress hormones such as epinephrine, or adrenaline, from having an effect on your heart rate and blood flow. They make the heartbeat slower and with less force, which lowers the blood pressure. By blocking the production of angiotensin II from kidneys, beta-blockers also help to widen veins and arteries so that blood can move more freely through the body.
This drug class does not sound familiar to the public yet the examples in the class are commonly used among us. Examples include propranolol and atenolol. They are available in multiple routes such as oral, intravenous, or ophthalmic forms and intramuscular injections.
When are they used?
These drugs are usually prescribed by doctors to control cardiovascular symptoms such as chest pain(angina), high blood pressure(hypertension), and irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia). The symptoms can be reduced by beta-blockers slowing the heart rate, indirectly decreasing the oxygen demand and work stress in the heart region. They may also help in conditions in which sympathetic responses or “fight-or-flight” responses exert such as migraine, essential tremors, glaucoma where high intraocular pressure accumulates and leads to vision loss, hyperthyroidism and anxiety.
Side effects and substance interaction slightly differ between selective and non-selective types. Selective types mean they act on certain beta receptors on the body part for the drug action. Selective beta-blockers mostly target the heart while the symptoms of other body parts are acted by non-selective beta-blockers. Non-selective drugs bind to both the beta-1 and beta-2 receptors and cause antagonism through both. Propranolol, carvedilol, sotalol, and labetalol are among the examples. Beta-1 receptor-selective blockers such as atenolol, bisoprolol, metoprolol, and esmolol bind only to beta-1 receptors, making them cardio-selective.
Although they are usually tolerated well without significant side effects, they are only obtained by prescription as beta receptors are found all over the body and induce a broad range of physiologic effects.
Beta-blocker drugs, which work by blocking these receptors, can have a variety of negative side effects. Cardiovascular problems such as bradycardia and hypotension are two of the most common side effects. Fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and constipation are all common side effects that have been observed. Some may experience cold hands and feet, particularly among the elderly as beta-blockers may affect the blood supply to your peripheries. A number of patients have expressed concerns about sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction.
Patients on beta-blockers are more likely than the general population to experience bronchospasm. Patients suffering from asthma are at greater risk. Patients suffering from Raynaud syndrome are also at risk of experiencing an aggravation. Beta-blockers have the potential to cause hyperglycemia while masking the hemodynamic indications that are often seen in a hypoglycemic patient, such as tachycardia and dizziness.
Beta-blockers have been associated with insomnia, sleep disturbances, and nightmares in certain patients because the hormone melatonin is suppressed by the medication. Beta-blockers that pass the blood-brain barrier have a more noticeable influence on this. In some patients, carvedilol may cause an increase in edema.
Sotalol inhibits the potassium channels in the heart, resulting in QT prolongation and ventricular fibrillation. It increases the likelihood of torsade’s de pointes occurring.
Heart block is a potential side effect of all beta-blockers, although the risk is higher in people with cardiac risk factors.
Make sure you always consult a doctor for professional advice before you are starting and stopping these drugs. Possible concomitant drug or food interaction with these drugs is also an essential part to discuss and take note of to ensure optimized effect for your treatment.
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