Propranolol is a medication used to treat a number of medical conditions. It belongs to a family of drugs called beta blockers. The active ingredient is propranolol hydrochloride. Propranolol tablets can be used to treat heart problems (and other related conditions that cause an irregular heartbeat), to help with symptoms of anxiety, to reduce symptoms of too much thyroid hormone in your body (thyrotoxicosis), to treat high blood pressure and angina, heart attack and heart disease prevention or to prevent migraines.
What is Propranolol?
- 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 situational anxiety disorders, it can lessen physical symptoms such as sweating or shaking
- It is a prescription medication that is taken every day
- It is important to read the patient leaflet for a full list of possible 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 (referred to as a ‘slower heart rate’) and less forcefully. This is helpful to lower blood pressure for patients who have hypertension (high blood pressure).
Propranolol can also relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety (including situational anxiety treatment and performance anxiety treatment) that are caused by the heart beating fast. Slowing the heartbeat / heart rate and improving the blood flow can reduce palpitations and any tremors or trembling and chest pain (angina).
For migraine headache 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 a prescription medicine usually taken in tablet form. It is best to take it at the same time each day, with or without food. Propranolol 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 a medicine that 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.
What is the dosage of Propranolol?
Propranolol 10mg / Propranolol 40mg
Propranolol is a medicine 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 situational anxiety symptoms, it is recommended to start at 40mg once a day, and this can then be increased to 40mg three times a day if necessary.
Does Propranolol have 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 pharmacist prescriber, medical healthcare professional or your doctor for medical advice 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 (chest pain / angina) 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 healthcare professional, such as your doctor, 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.
What warnings does Propranolol come with?
Beta blockers, including propranolol, are not always suitable for patients who have chronic conditions such as asthma, a pre-existing heart condition (such as a slow heartbeat or heart block, a heart rhythm disorder, heart failure), low blood pressure, low blood sugar, muscle weakness, diabetes or liver or kidney disease. Consult with your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional who will give you appropriate medical advice prior to starting any potential treatment.
What experiences have Propranolol users had?
Every patient suffering from anxiety disorders, heart problems and migraines has a unique individual experience when taking Propranolol as a treatment.