Propranolol has a number of different uses such as to prevent migraines, to prevent chest pain (angina), reduce the symptoms of tremor or trembling and shakes and to ease the symptoms of anxiety, such as a fast heartbeat and sweating. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.
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What is propranolol?
Propranolol is used to treat a number of different conditions and related symptoms, such as:
- to lower high blood pressure (hypertension)
- to prevent chest pain (angina)
- to reduce heart rate in people with abnormally fast heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- following a heart attack, to protect the heart
- for essential tremor to reduce the symptoms of trembling and shakes
- to ease the symptoms of anxiety, such as a fast heartbeat, sweating, trembling
- for overactive thyroid gland, to reduce symptoms such as tremor or fast heartbeat
- to prevent migraines.
Propranolol belongs to a group of medicines called beta-blockers. Beta-blockers work by blocking some natural chemicals in the body, to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.
- The dose of propranolol will be different for different people depending your medical condition and response to treatment.
- Propranolol is available in 2 forms – an immediate release tablet or a controlled release capsule. Check with your pharmacist which version you are taking.
- Always take your propranolol exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much propranolol to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.
How to take propranolol
- If you are prescribed the immediate release tablet
- take these as you have been prescribed (usually between 2 to 4 times a day)
- take your doses at the same times each day.
- If you are prescribed the controlled release capsule (usually has LA after the name)
- take these once a day, in the morning – the capsules are designed to release the medication slowly over a few hours
- swallow the controlled release capsule whole, with a glass of water
- do not crush or chew them – this will release all the medication at once and increase your chance of side effects.
- You can take propranolol with or without food.
- If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice about taking propranolol and alcohol. Alcohol may increase your chance of side effects such as dizziness.
- If you forget your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
- Do not stop taking propranolol suddenly; speak to your doctor or nurse before stopping.
Precautions – before taking propranolol
- Do you have asthma?
- Do you have diabetes?
- Do you have problems with your kidneys?
- Do you play a professional sport?
- Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Have you ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine?
- Are you are taking or using any other medicines? This includes any medicines you are using which are available to buy from a pharmacy, supermarket or natural health store without a prescription.
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start taking propranolol. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
Possible side effects
Like all medicines, propranolol can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.
If you have diabetes you need to take extra care to measure your blood glucose levels regularly.
- Beta-blockers can cause an increase in blood glucose levels, especially when you first start taking them. This effect usually settles with time.
- Beta-blockers may reduce the warning signs of a low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia - often called a hypo). For example, you may not have the feeling of fast, irregular or strong heartbeats (palpitations) or tremor, which can occur when your blood glucose is going too low. If you are worried about this, talk to your doctor. Do not stop taking your beta-blocker without checking with your doctor first. Read more about hypoglycaemia.
If you have asthma, taking a beta blocker may trigger your asthma symptoms or make them worse. Not everybody with asthma is sensitive to these medicines. If you are worried about this, talk to your doctor, they may be able to prescribe a different medicine or increase the dose of your asthma preventer medication. Do not suddenly stop taking your beta blocker without talking to your doctor first. This can be dangerous and make you feel unwell. Read more about medicines that may trigger asthma symptoms.
Other side effects
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- Check with a pharmacist before taking over the counter medicines such as:
- Propranolol may interact with other medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting propranolol or before starting any new medicines.
The following links provide further information on propranolol.
- Propranolol hydrochloride New Zealand Formulary