Introduction

Arrhythmia refers to a condition where the heart beats too fast, too slow, or too irregularly.

The arrhythmia need not necessarily be treated. If your doctor suspects that the arrhythmia may be causing more serious problems for your heart, they may recommend medication.

There are many medications that can be used to control or eliminate arrhythmia. The type of arrhythmia that you have will determine which medication is best for you.

Antiarrhythmic drugs

If you suffer from tachycardia (fast or irregular heart beats) or tachycardia, antiarrhythmic medications may be prescribed. These drugs correct your heart rhythm. These medications restore normal heart rhythms by altering the electrical current that causes your heart to beat.

Antiarrhythmic drugs are usually available in pill form. They can be used for a long time. Some can be administered intravenously in an emergency. These are the most commonly used medications in this category:

  • amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone)
  • flecainide (Tambocor)
  • Corvert (ibutilide) can only be administered via IV
  • Lidocaine (Xylocaine) can only be administered intravenously.
  • procainamide (Procan, Procanbid)
  • Propafenone (Rythmol).
  • Quinidine (many brands)

tocainide (Tonocarid)

These medications may be able to correct an arrhythmia but there is also the possibility that they could cause it to occur again. This is known as a proarrhythmia. Call your doctor immediately if you experience a proarrhythmia after taking antiarrhythmic drugs.

Calcium channel blockers

Your doctor might prescribe a calcium channel blocking medication if you have angina (chest pain), high blood pressure or arrhythmia. These drugs dilate blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the heart and reduces chest pain.

These drugs can also slow down your heart rate. The risk of developing arrhythmia is reduced by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.

Calcium channel blockers are usually available in pills, although some can also be administered intravenously (IV). Calcium channel blockers can be used for long-term.

Here are some examples of calcium channel blocking agents:

  • Norvasc (amlodipine)
  • diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac)
  • felodipine
  • Radipine
  • nicardipine (Cardene SR)
  • Procardia nifedipine
  • nisoldipine, (Sular).

verapamil (Calan, Verelan, Covera-HS)

These medications can have side effects that vary in severity. Side effects of these medications can include dizziness, tachycardia and constipation. You may also experience rash and swelling of the feet or legs.

Beta-blockers

Your doctor might prescribe a beta blocker if you have tachycardia. Beta-blockers block the action of adrenaline. It can reduce your heart rate and relieve tachycardia. You can lower your blood pressure and reduce the stress on your heart. Beta blockers can be used in the following ways:

  • Acebutolol, (Sectral).
  • atenolol (Tenormin)
  • bisoprolol (Zebeta)
  • metoprolol (Toprol-XL, Lopressor)
  • nadolol (Corgard)
  • propranolol (Inderal LA, InnoPran XL)

Side effects of beta-blockers can include headaches, fatigue, cold hands, and tiredness. These medications can also affect your digestive system. People may experience stomach problems, constipation or diarrhea.

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