Beta-blockers (beta-adrenoceptor blocking agents) work mainly by decreasing the activity of the heart by blocking the action of hormones like adrenaline.
Beta-blockers are prescription-only medicines (POMS), which means they can only be prescribed by a GP or another suitably qualified healthcare professional.
Examples of commonly used beta-blockers include:
This topic covers:
Beta-blockers may be used to treat:
Less commonly, beta-blockers are used to prevent migraine or treat:
There are several types of beta-blocker, and each one has its own characteristics. The type prescribed for you will depend on your condition.
Before taking beta-blockers, make sure your doctor is aware of any other conditions you have, as they may not be suitable to use.
Make sure you tell your doctor if you have a history of:
Your GP can advise you about which medicine to use if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
It's important not to stop taking beta-blockers without seeking your GP's advice. In some cases suddenly stopping the medicine may make your condition worse.
Beta-blockers, including beta-blocker eye drops, can interact with other medicines, altering the effects of one of the medicines.
Read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine to check that it's safe to take with beta-blockers. If you're still unsure, you could also ask your GP or pharmacist.
Some of the more common medicines that can interact with beta-blockers include:
Most people taking beta-blockers have either no or very mild side effects that become less troublesome with time.
Contact your GP if you're experiencing symptoms that affect your everyday life. They can discuss whether the symptoms are a result of the medication and what to do.
Don't drive if you feel dizzy, tired, or your vision is affected.
Symptoms commonly reported both by people taking beta-blockers and those taking a dummy medication (placebo) include:
Less common symptoms include:
If you feel unwell after taking beta-blockers or have concerns, speak to your GP or pharmacist, or call NHS 111.
You can also report suspected side effects using the Yellow Card Scheme.
Contact your GP or call NHS 111 if you accidentally take one or more extra doses of beta-blockers. They'll be able to advise you about what to do.
Most beta-blockers are taken once a day, apart from certain beta-blockers that are used during pregnancy and Sotalol, which is given two or three times a day.
If you forget to take a dose of your beta-blocker, you should check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. It should include advice about what to do in this situation.
Never double up on a dose to make up for a missed or forgotten dose of any beta-blocker.
Your GP or pharmacist can also give you further advice.