Do you often feel anxious or take beta-blockers for anxiety regularly? Do you know if it is safe for you? Does it have any side effects? How beta-blockers work or function? No? In that case, you are at the right place! And, You will get all the answers about the doubts you have in this article. Hence, let us start with the introduction of the Beta-Blockers.
What are Beta-Blockers?
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Beta-Blockers(Beta-adrenergic blocking agents) are a class of drugs. It helps to reduce blood pressure and helps the body to fight anxiety. Also, it reduces the adverse effect of stress on the heart. Beta-Blockers are competitive antagonists. They provide a fight-to-flight response to epinephrine(adrenaline) and norepinephrine(noradrenaline). Did not understand the meaning of the above line? Not to worry, let me help you with it.
In Lehman’s words, adrenaline is a stress-releasing hormone. When adrenaline releases, it travels to our heart and gets mixed with the heart’s beta receptor. As a result, a heart starts pumping faster. This results in the risk of a heart attack in a person. In this case, Beta-blockers work as a hero! Its quick reaction prevents our heart’s receptors from making contact with the adrenaline. Also, it reduces the chance of heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, anxiety, stress etc. Moreover, they make our heartbeat slowly and with less force. Also, this helps to avoid the chances of high blood pressure, anxiety and heart attack.
To begin with, Propranolol and Pronethalol are the two inventions of James Black in 1964. Also, the inventions of these two drugs transformed medical science history. Furthermore, it also helps in the study management of angina pectoris or Angina. Beta-blockers are one of the most successful and popular inventions of the 20th century.
According to the studies, beta-blockers are more useful for hypertension and other cardinal events than the placebo. However, it is not as effective as Diuretics.
List of Beta-Blockers:
The list of the most common Beta-blockers are:-
Migraine Prophylaxis etc.
BETA BLOCKERS: Other Uses
Beta-blockers are widely used to treat:-
Acute aortic dissection(an injury to the aorta. This injury results in the blood flows between the innermost wall or aortic wall)
Long QT syndrome(re-polarization of the heart. It affects heartbeat and causes fainting, dizziness etc.)
Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy(a type of disease in which the heart muscles gets affected. It results in tiredness, shortness of breath and legs pain)
Marfan Syndrome(a genetic disorder. It affects the human body’s connective tissue and causes overly flexible joints).
Anxiety disorders(Beta-blockers for anxiety are recommended).
Other common uses of Beta-Blockers are for the treatment of Portal Hypertension, Hyperhidrosis etc.
Did you know? Most of the beta-blockers for anxiety are prescribed off-label.
FDA has approved beta-blockers for one purpose. However, off-label means using a drug for more than one purpose. The FDA has not approved the use the beta-blockers for anxiety.
A doctor can still prescribe it for other purposes. FDA only regulates the testing and approval of drugs. However, it is not illegal to use it for more than one purpose( only if the doctor prescribes it).
Beta-Blockers for Congestive Cardiac Failure(CCF):-
Beta-blockers were effectively used as a prescribed medication for Congestive Cardiac Failure(CCF) or Congestive Heart Failure(CHF). However, A study during the late 1990s showed its adverse effect on the patients. It tends to decrease cardiac contractility and reduce morbidity and mortality. Thus, doctors stopped prescribing or using it for CCF or CHF.
Beta-blockers are the primary medication for the reductive effect on heart rate. However, in CCF, this is not the only condition. Beta-blockers not only reduce the heart rate but also affect the renin-angiotensin system at the kidneys. This leads to a decrease in the renin secretion in the body, reducing the heart oxygen demand.
Moreover, in some cases, Beta-blockers were useful as it reduces the risk of death by 4.5%(over 13- month period).
Beta-Blockers for Migraine:-
The American Academy of Neurology permits the use of beta-blockers in 2012. Propranolol and metoprolol were the primary recommendations for migraine. In 2019, several trials proved Propranolol is more effective than placebo to treat migraine and other headaches. Moreover, the study also suggested that the use of Propranolol helps in reducing the number of episodes a person experiences by four to five times.
Beta-Blockers for Glaucoma:-
Glaucoma is a medical condition that attacks the optic nerves and damages them. For a good vision, it is essential to have a healthy optic nerve. Also, Glaucoma occurs due to the increase in eyes pressure and results in fluid production.
Loss of side vision, seeing halos around light, loss of peripherals are the first signs of Glaucoma.
Moreover, For the treatment of Glaucoma, doctors often prescribe the beta-blocker that contains eye drops. This beta-blocker eye drops help in reducing the pressure within the eye as well as lower fluid production.
Beta-Blockers for Anxiety:-
Beta-blockers are very useful in blocking norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a stress hormone responsible for the production of anxiety. Also, it helps in reducing physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, rapid heart rate, dizziness and shaky hands etc.
Moreover, they are suitable for short term or event-related anxiety( social phobias, performance anxiety or stage fright). Beta-blockers block the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as shortness of breath and chest tightness. However, they do not help to reduce the emotional and psychological symptoms of anxiety. For the emotional and psychological effects of anxiety, other treatments like counselling may help address the symptoms.
Though, the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) disapproves beta-blockers for treating anxiety. But, doctors may prescribe them off-label.
We have a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck(thyroid) that produces a hormone called “thyroxine”. Thyroxine is responsible for digestion, smooth function of heart muscles and boosts our metabolism. However, if there is an overproduction of this hormone, it causes Hyperthyroidism.
Furthermore, Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism are rapid or irregular heartbeat, weight loss, sweating, irritability, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, sensitivity to heat, swelling in the neck, enlarged thyroid(goitre).
Here are Beta-blockers in action for the treatment. Beta-blockers reduce the effect of thyroid hormone. Also, it blocks the hormone from entering the bloodstreams.
Essential tremor is a neuro condition that results in rhythmic oscillations and muscle contractions. The cause of tremor is unknown. However, a theory suggests that tremor happens when the cerebellum and other parts of our body do not communicate correctly. The cerebellum is the organ that controls the muscle coordination of the human body. Moreover, tremor can be heredity in some people. Hence, it can pass down the generations.
Beta-blockers such as Propranolol and Primidone helps in the treatment of essential tremor. Essential tremor causes trembling. Trembling may occur in any part of the body, especially in the hands. For example, trembling occurs when you do simple tasks, such as drinking water or tying shoes, writing or shaving. Propranolol is effective for treating Essential tremor.
Types of Beta-Blockers:-
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Beta-blockers are also helpful in the management of beta-receptors. These beta-receptors produce in our body. The main function of these receptors is to control high blood pressure.
Let’s discuss the three types of beta receptors:-
Beta-1 or B1 receptors:- Beta-1 or B1 receptors are located in the heart. They help in regulating the heart activity: contraction or contractility
Beta-2 or B2 receptors:- They are located in the lungs’ bronchioles and arteries. Also, They promote smooth muscle activity.
Beta-3 or B3 receptors:- They are responsible for the smooth functioning of intestinal muscles, lipolysis and thermogenesis. Moreover, B3 receptors are the primary source that helps in the breakdown of fat.
Beta-Blockers:- For performance enhancement:-
Now, you all are aware of the function of Beta-blockers. They promote normal blood pressure, lower heart rates, and reduce tremors. These traits make beta-blockers a perfect choice for surgeons.
Beta-blockers were once a part of sports like archery, golf, snooker, shooting etc. Professionals used to take Beta-blockers. Beta-blockers have the capacity to control anxiety and heart rates. Also, they help to reduce hypertension. Later, the International Olympic Community banned it because of an incident in the Summer Olympics 2008. During the incident, Kim Jon-Su(50-meter pistol silver medalist and 10-meter air pistol bronze medalist) tested positive for the consumption of Propranolol. As a result, his medals were taken from him.
Beta-Blockers:- Side effects
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Consumption of Beta-blockers for a long time can have adverse effects on the human body. Some of its adverse effects are:-
- Diarrhoea, Fatigue
- Cold extremities
- Worsening of Raynaud’s syndrome
- Alopecia and disturbances
- Hallucinations and constipation
- Erectile dysfunction
- sleeping difficulties and confusion
- Blockage in the heart
- Fluid retention
- Nausea and Vomiting
Cautions before taking Beta-Blockers:-
Given below is the list of the diseases that can harm you if you are taking Beta-Blockers:-
- Asthma. Beta-blockers are Suitable for some types of asthma patients. Or. they may worsen the symptoms for many.
- Diabetes mellitus
- Hyperthyroidism. It may result in a thyroid storm.
- Bradycardia. Consumption of Beta-blockers in this condition may result in heart block.
- Worse, Raynaud’s disease. It can cause severe artery disease.
- Slower heart rate and uncontrolled heart failure, etc.
- People with a heart condition or chest pain should take advice from the doctor.
- People with a history of drug consumption like cocaine should see their doctor first.
- Some of the beat-blockers are safe to consume during pregnancy. However, one should consult the doctor first as they can prescribe the one with no side effects.
To sum up, I would like to inform you that Beta-blockers are effective drugs in several conditions. However, it is best if the doctor prescribes it, or it can worsen the symptoms. Thus, choose wisely. I hope this article will multiply your knowledge. Thank you!