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Propranolol is a medication used to treat a number of medical conditions. It belongs to a family of drugs called beta blockers. Propranolol can be used to treat heart problems, to help with symptoms of anxiety or to prevent migraines.
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- Propranolol lowers the blood pressure to make it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body
- Propranolol also slows the heart rate
- If taken for anxiety, it can lessen symptoms such as sweating or shaking
- It is a medication that is taken every day
- It is important to read the patient leaflet for a full list of side effects and cautions.
How Does Propranolol Work?
Propranolol works by blocking specific receptors in the heart called beta-adrenergic receptors. This is why it is known as a ‘beta blocker’. When the receptors are blocked, the heart beats more slowly and less forcefully. This is helpful to lower blood pressure for patients who have hypertension (high blood pressure).
Propranolol can also relieve the symptoms of anxiety that are caused by the heart beating fast. Slowing the heartbeat can reduce palpitations and any tremors or trembling.
For migraine sufferers, propranolol is thought to stabilise the blood vessels in the brain to prevent their dilation. This in turn reduces the frequency or migraines.
How is Propranolol Taken?
Propranolol is usually taken in tablet form. It is best to take it at the same time each day, with or without food. The tablets should be swallowed with water, and can be broken in half if you have difficulty swallowing. Oral solutions are also available.
Propranolol is available as a standard release medication, or a sustained release preparation.
The standard release means that propranolol is quickly released into the body, and several doses may need to be taken each day.
The sustained release tablets dissolve slowly, and so you may only need to take a tablet once a day.
Dosage of Propranolol
Propranolol is available in tablets of 10mg, 40mg, 80mg and 160mg. Only 80mg and 160mg are available as sustained release preparations.
When taking propranolol to treat high blood pressure, the starting dose is 80mg twice a day. Each dose may later need to be increased to 160mg.
For migraine, the usual starting dose is 40mg taken two or three times a day. For anxiety, it is recommended to start at 40mg once a day, and this can then be increased to 40mg three times a day if necessary.
Are there any Side Effects?
Propranolol is commonly prescribed, but some patients will experience side effects. The most common side effects include:
- Feeling tired
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
- Getting cold fingers and toes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nausea (feeling sick).
These symptoms usually settle within a few days of starting the medication. It is wise to speak to a prescriber or medical professional if the side effects are bothersome or persist for longer.
A small number of people may experience more serious side effects.
- Shortness of breath or a cough which worsens on exercise could be a sign of heart problems
- Wheezing, breathlessness or a tight chest could be a sign of lung problems
- Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes could be a sign of liver problems.
You should tell a health professional straight away if you notice these symptoms or signs.
Very rarely a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may occur, causing difficulty breathing or swelling inside your mouth. You must call 999 if this occurs.
Beta blockers, including propranolol, are not always suitable for patients who have asthma, a slow heartbeat or heart block, muscle weakness, diabetes or liver or kidney disease. At UK Meds, you will be asked to complete a health questionnaire to check that propranolol is suitable for you.
A prescriber will review your symptoms, past health history and any current medications to check that propranolol is the best medication for you. Once prescribed, you can order propranolol online for home delivery.