Beta-blockers 

Introduction 

Cardiac risk assessment

Find out how a cardiovascular risk assessment can detect whether you're at risk of heart disease.

Media last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015

Names of beta-blockers

Examples of commonly used beta-blockers include:

  • acebutolol (Sectral)
  • atenolol (Tenormin)
  • bisoprolol (Cardicor, Emcor)
  • metoprolol (Betaloc, Lopresor)
  • nadolol (Corgard)
  • nebivolol (Nebilet)
  • propranolol (Inderal)

A full list can be found in our beta-blockers medicines information pages.

Pharmacy and medicines

Using your local pharmacy's services could save you an unnecessary trip to your GP

Beta-blockers (also known as beta-adrenoceptor blocking agents) are medications used to treat several conditions, often by decreasing heart activity. They block the release of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline in certain parts of the body.

Noradrenaline is a chemical released by nerves when they are stimulated. The noradrenaline passes messages to other parts of the body, such as muscles, blood vessels and heart.

When are they used?

Beta-blockers may be used to treat:

Read more information about the uses of beta-blockers.

Less commonly, beta-blockers are used to prevent migraine or treat:

There are several types of beta-blocker and each has its own characteristics. The type prescribed for you will depend on your condition but they are all equally effective.

Things to consider

There are several things to consider before taking beta-blockers.

Make sure your doctor is aware if you have a history of:

  • asthma or any lung disease
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • diabetes (especially in diabetics who have frequent episodes of low blood sugar)
  • allergic reaction to any medication

Your GP can tell you which medicine to use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is important you don’t stop taking beta-blockers without your GP's advice. In some cases, suddenly stopping the medicine may cause your condition to get worse.

If you want to check whether other medicines are safe to take with beta-blockers, ask your GP or pharmacist, or read the medicine's patient information leaflet.

Read more information about how beta-blockers interact with other medicines.

There may be side effects while taking beta-blockers, including the following:

  • dizziness
  • excessive tiredness
  • blurred vision
  • cold hands and feet
  • slow heartbeat
  • diarrhoea and nausea

Less common side effects include:

Missed or extra doses

If you forget to take a dose of beta-blockers, the general advice is described below.

  • If it is less than two hours late, take the dose as soon as you remember and continue as normal.
  • If it is more than two hours late, take the dose as soon as you remember, as long as the next dose is not due within a few hours, then continue as normal. If you take two doses closer together than normal, you may get more side effects.

If you are not sure what to do about your dose, check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. This should give you advice about what to do.

If you need further advice, or accidentally take an extra dose of beta-blockers, contact your GP or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.




Page last reviewed: 03/04/2012

Next review due: 03/04/2014

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