- High Blood Pressure Slideshow Pictures
- Take the Salt Quiz!
- Lowering Blood Pressure Exercise Tips Pictures
- What are beta blockers and how do they work?
- List of examples of brand and generic names for beta blockers available?
- What are the side effects of beta blockers?
- What diseases and conditions do beta blockers treat (uses)?
- Are there differences amongst the beta blockers available?
- Which drugs and supplements interact with beta blockers?
What are beta blockers and how do they work?
Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, are drugs that block norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) from binding to beta receptors on nerves. Norepinephrine and epinephrine are produced by nerves throughout the body as well as by the adrenal gland. They serve as neurotransmitters (chemicals that nerves use to communicate with one another) that may be active locally where they are produced, or elsewhere in the body, when they are released into the blood. There are both alpha and beta receptors in the body. There are three types of beta receptors and they control several different functions based on their location in the body.
- beta-1 (β1) receptors are located in the heart, eye, and kidneys.
- beta (β2) receptors are found in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver, uterus, blood vessels, and skeletal muscle.
- beta (β3) receptors are located in fat cells.
Beta blockers primarily block β1 and β2 receptors and thereby the effects of norepinephrine and epinephrine. By blocking the effects of norepinephrine and epinephrine, beta blockers reduce heart rate; reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels; and may constrict air passages by stimulating the muscles that surround the air passages to contract considered an adverse side effect).
List of examples of brand and generic names for beta blockers available?
- acebutolol (Sectral)
- atenolol (Tenormin)
- betaxolol (Kerlone)
- betaxolol (Betoptic S)
- bisoprolol fumarate (Zebeta)
- carteolol (Cartrol, discontinued)
- carvedilol (Coreg)
- esmolol (Brevibloc)
- labetalol (Trandate [Normodyne - discontinued])
- metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
- nadolol (Corgard)
- nebivolol (Bystolic)
- penbutolol (Levatol)
- pindolol (Visken, discontinued)
- propranolol (Hemangeol, Inderal LA, Inderal XL, InnoPran XL)
- sotalol (Betapace, Sorine)
- timolol (Blocadren, discontinued)
- timolol ophthalmic solution (Timoptic, Betimol, Istalol)
Quick GuideHow to Lower Blood Pressure: Exercise Tips
What are the side effects of beta blockers?
Beta blockers may cause:
Other important side effects include:
As an extension of their beneficial effect, they slow heart rate and reduce blood pressure, but they may cause adverse effects such as heart failure or heart block in patients with heart problems.
Beta blockers should not be withdrawn suddenly because sudden withdrawal may worsen angina (chest pain) and cause heart attacks, serious abnormal heart rhythms, or sudden death.
- Central nervous system effects of beta blockers include:
Beta blockers that block β2 receptors may cause shortness of breath in asthmatics.
As with other drugs used for treating high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction may occur.
Other serious side effects of beta-blockers include:
- Toxic epidermal necrolysis
- Raynaud's phenomenon
- Lupus erythematosus
- Serious allergic reactions
- Erythema multiform
- Steven Johnson Syndrome
- Toxic epidermal necrolysis
What diseases and conditions do beta blockers treat (uses)?
- Beta blockers are used for treating:
- They also have been found to prevent further heart attacks and death after a heart attack.
- Other uses include the treatment of hyperthyroidism, akathisia (restlessness or inability to sit still), panic disorder, anxiety, and aggressive behavior.
- Some beta blockers reduce the production of aqueous humor in the eye and therefore are used for reducing pressure in the eye caused by glaucoma.
Are there differences amongst the beta blockers available?
Beta blockers differ in the type of beta receptors they block and, therefore, their effects.
- Non-selective beta blockers, for example, propranolol (Inderal), block β1 and β2 receptors and, therefore, affect the heart, blood vessels, and air passages.
- Selective beta blockers, for example, metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL) primarily block β1 receptors and, therefore, mostly affect the heart and do not affect air passages.
- Some beta blockers, for example, pindolol (Visken) have intrinsic sympathomimetic activity (ISA), which means they mimic the effects of epinephrine and norepinephrine and can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Beta blockers with ISA have smaller effects on heart rate than agents that do not have ISA.
- Labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate) and carvedilol (Coreg) block beta and alpha-1 receptors. Blocking alpha receptors adds to the blood vessel dilating effect of labetalol and carvedilol.
Which drugs and supplements interact with beta blockers?
- Combining propranolol (Inderal) or pindolol (Visken) with thioridazine (Mellaril) or chlorpromazine (Thorazine) may result in low blood pressure (hypotension) and abnormal heart rhythms because the drugs interfere with each other's elimination and result in increased levels of the drugs.
- Dangerous elevations in blood pressure may occur when clonidine (Catapres) is combined with a beta blocker, or when clonidine or beta blocker is discontinued after their concurrent use. Blood pressure should be closely monitored after initiation or discontinuation of clonidine or a beta blocker when they have been used together.
- Phenobarbital and similar agents may increase the breakdown and reduce blood levels of propanolol (Inderal) or metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL). This may reduce effectiveness of the beta blocker.
- Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (for example, ibuprofen) may counteract the blood pressure reducing effects of beta blockers by reducing the effects of prostaglandins, which play a role in control of blood pressure.
- Beta blockers may prolong hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and mask symptoms of hypoglycemia in diabetics who are taking insulin or other diabetic medications.
Beta blockers are a class of drugs that block beta-adrenergic substances such as adrenaline (epinephrine), a key agent in the "sympathetic" portion of the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system and activation of heart muscle. By blocking the action of the involuntary nervous system on the heart, beta blockers relieve stress on the heart.
Beta blockers are used for the treatment of irregular heart rhythms, chest pain, heart attack, hypertension, migraine headaches, social phobias, tremors, and glaucoma.
Common side effects of beta blockers are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and weight gain if you are taking medicine for diabetes (type 1 and type 2). There are other important side effects and serious adverse effects of this drug class that include, blurred vision, insomnia, hair loss, disorientation, CNS system effects, and serious heart problems.
Beta blockers interact with several other drugs, for example, chlorpromazine (Thorazine), clonidine (Catapres), Phenobarbital, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including aspirin, and diabetes medications, including insulin.
Examples of generic and brand names available for beta blockers in the US include acebutolol (Sectral), atenolol (Tenormin), bisoprolol (Zebeta), metoprolol (Lopressor, Lopressor LA, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard), timolol (Blocadren). Talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other medical professional if you have questions about beta-blockers.
If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist. In the US -Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.
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Treatment & Diagnosis
- Headaches FAQs
- High Blood Pressure FAQs
- Heart Disease FAQs
- Thyroid FAQs
- Salt FAQs
- Atrial Fibrillation A-Fib FAQs
- Dangers of Mixing Medications
- Drugs: The Most Common Medication Errors
- How To Reduce Your Medication Costs
- Pharmacy Visit, How To Get The Most Out of Your Visit
- Indications for Drugs: Approved vs. Non-approved
- Beta Blockers: Why Take a Beta Blocker?
- Drugs: Buying Prescription Drugs Online Safely
- Medication Disposal
- What Is the Difference Between ACE Inhibitors and A Beta Blockers?
- Thyroid Storm
- Generic Drugs, Are They as Good as Brand-Names?
- Are You Getting Enough Potassium?
Medications & Supplements
- timolol (Blocadren and Timolide 10-25 have been discontinued)
- nadolol (Corgard)
- propranolol, Inderal, Inderal LA, Innopran XL
- metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
- Sectral (acebutolol)
- atenolol, Tenormin
- bisoprolol and hydrochlorothiazide, Ziac
- bisoprolol, Zebeta
- timolol ophthalmic solution (Timoptic, Timoptic-XE, Timoptic in Ocudose)
- atenolol and chlorthalidone, Tenoretic
- Drugs: What You Should Know About Your Drugs
- Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)
- Drug Interactions
- High Blood Pressure Drugs (Hypertension)
- Congestive Heart Failure Medications
- erenumab (Aimovig)
Prevention & Wellness
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Heart Health Resources
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
FDA Prescribing Information.
Harvard Health Publications; Harvard Medical School. "Ask the doctor: Beta blockers and alcohol." Sep 2013.
Top Beta Blockers Related Articles
Allergy ShotsAllergy shots are given to increase your tolerance to allergens that cause allergy symptoms. At the beginning, allergy shots will be administered once or twice a week for several months. The dose is increased each time until a maintenance dose is reached. Side effects of allergy shots include itchy eyes, shortness of breath, runny nose, tight throat, redness, swelling, and irritation.
Angina SymptomsAngina is chest pain due to inadequate blood supply to the heart. Angina symptoms may include chest tightness, burning, squeezing, and aching. Coronary artery disease is the main cause of angina but there are other causes. Angina is diagnosed by taking the patient's medical history and performing tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), blood test, stress test, echocardiogram, cardiac CT scan, and heart catheterization. Treatment of angina usually includes lifestyle modification, medication, and sometimes, surgery. The risk of angina can be reduced by following a heart healthy lifestyle.
Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is an abnormality in the heart rhythm which involves irregular and often rapid beating of the heart. Symptoms may include heart palpitations, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Atrial fibrillation treatment may include medication or procedures like cardioversion or ablation to normalize the heart rate.
GlaucomaGlaucoma is a common eye condition in which the fluid pressure inside the eye rises because of slowed fluid drainage from the eye. If untreated, glaucoma may damage the optic nerve and other parts of the eye, causing the loss of vision or even blindness.
Migraine TriggersPainful headaches can ruin your productivity and quality of life. But what triggers headaches and migraines? Learn some surprising causes of headaches and migraines plus how to find relief.
Headaches QuizIf you're plagued with headaches, our Headaches Quiz may help you identify causes, triggers, symptoms, and treatments for headache pain caused by different types of headaches such as migraines, sinus, cluster, tension, or stress.
Heart AttackHeart attack happens when a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack can cause chest pain, heart failure, and electrical instability of the heart.
CAD SlideshowWhat is heart disease (coronary artery disease)? Learn about the causes of heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease include chest pain and shortness of breath. Explore heart disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Heart Disease QuizTake our Heart Disease Quiz to get answers and facts about high cholesterol, atherosclerosis prevention, and the causes, symptoms, treatments, testing, and procedures for medically broken hearts.
Illustrations of the HeartThe muscle that pumps blood received from veins into arteries throughout the body. See a picture of the Heart and learn more about the health topic.
High Blood Pressure Hypertension
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms.
Systolic and diastolic are the two readings in which blood pressure is measured. The American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure in 2017. The guidelines now state that blood normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If either one of those numbers is higher, you have high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Cardiology defines high blood pressure slightly differently. The AAC considers 130/80 mm Hg. or greater (either number) stage 1 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is considered 140/90 mm Hg. or greater.
If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.
REFERENCE: CDC. High Blood Pressure. Updated: Nov 13, 2017.
Take the HBP QuizTake this quiz and test your IQ of high blood pressure (hypertension), the cardiovascular disease that causes most strokes and heart attacks. How are dizziness, snoring, and gout related to HBP? Find the answer and learn how medical treatments and lifestyle adjustments fight this common problem.
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PacemakerA pacemaker is a device or system that sends electrical impulses to the heart in order to set the heart rhythm. A pacemaker can be a natural pacemaker of the heart (the sinoatrial node) or it can be an electronic device that serves as an artificial pacemaker.
ParathyroidectomyParathyroidectomy is the removal of one or more of the parathyroid glands to treat hyperparathyroidism. Risks of parathyroidectomy include:
- paralysis of the vocal cords,
- difficulty swallowing thin liquids,
- difficulty breathing,
- and drug reactions.
- damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve,
- bleeding or hematoma,
- problems maintaining calcium levels in the blood,
- need for further and more aggressive surgery,
- need for a limited or total thyroidectomy,
- prolonged pain,
- impaired healing,
- and recurrence of the tumor.
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Triglyceride TestTriglycerides are a common form of fat that we digest. Triglycerides are the main ingredient in animal fats and vegetable oils. Elevated levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, fatty liver disease, and pancreatitis. Elevated levels of triglycerides are also associated with diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, and medications (for example, diuretics, birth control pills, and beta blockers). Dietary changes, and medication if necessary can help lower triglyceride blood levels.