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Arrhythmia

Medications For Arrhythmia: What Works Best?

One of the most effective things you can do when experiencing an irregular heartbeat is to take the medications that are capable of successfully helping regulate your heart rate – this is especially true if you are experiencing palpitations.

There are a number of different heart medications that can help with Arrhythmia, and each one is designed to treat different types of irregularities in the heartbeat. This article highlights the most popular heart medications for Arrhythmias and how they can help ease your symptoms.

What is Arrhythmia? 

The term Arrhythmia can be defined as the rhythmic irregularities in a beating heart. It can be caused by a number of different factors and can occur in people of all ages. It is important to understand what Arrhythmia is so that you know what to look out for, and which treatment options are available.

Types of Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias can be segregated into three categories based on the pace of heartbeats; which tends to be fast, slow, or irregular in this medical condition. These three categories are further divided into respective subtypes. Let’s take a brief look at each one of them:

  • Tachycardia: This type of Arrhythmia occurs when your heart starts beating fast, i.e. over 100 beats per minute while your body is at rest. Tachycardia is further categorized into Atrial Fibrillation and Ventricular Tachycardia. The former condition is associated with heartbeat irregularities in the upper chambers of the heart or atria. Atrial fibrillation often tends to be temporary but it does require treatment. However, Ventricular Tachycardia is a condition in which the heart rate increases due to the irregular flow of electric signals in the lower chambers of your heart. 
  • Bradycardias: On the other hand, Bradycardias is a type of Arrhythmia that is associated with slow heart rate, i.e. under 60 beats while your body is resting. Bradycardias is also divided into two further categories; Sick sinus syndrome and Heart block. Sick sinus syndrome occurs when your sinus node does not send electrical signals, causing your heart to beat slowly, leading to slowed heart rate. In many cases, sick sinus syndrome can also cause a faster heart rate, causing your heart to alternate between beating too fast or too slow. Heart block, on the other hand, is a condition in which electrical signals do not reach ventricles from the atria. 
  • Premature Heartbeats: This type of Arrhythmia occurs when your heart produces an additional heartbeat which seems like a skipped heartbeat at first. This can happen while you are resting and can be triggered by stress, stimulants like nicotine or caffeine, and physical exertion. Premature heartbeats often remain harmless and do not lead to any serious condition, but they can lead to worsening of any pre-existing heart diseases or complications if premature heartbeats co-occur with your preexisting condition. 

Common Antiarrhythmic Drugs?

Premature beats and Tachycardia are usually the Arrhythmic types that call for the use of antiarrhythmic drugs. These drugs work on restoring your normal heartbeat rate by correcting the electrical current which causes such a condition in the first place. 

Antiarrhythmic Drugs:

Antiarrhythmic drugs are usually used for a lifetime and are an available form of pills, but they can also be consumed intravenously in the wake of any emergency. The common antiarrhythmic drugs are:

  • Amiodarone
  • Propafenone
  • Dronedarone 
  • Flecainide
  • Tocainide 
  • Quinidine 
  • Ibutilide
  • Procainamide
  • Lidocaine

Channel Blockers

The type of arrhythmia and your overall health history determine if you require channel blockers. If your condition goes to such extremes, your doctor may prescribe you calcium or beta blockers, depending on the need. Let’s look at what each type of blocker is. 

Calcium Channel Blockers:

Calcium channel blocker treats arrhythmia, angina, or blood pressure issues (high or low) by dilating blood vessels. When your blood vessels are dilated, more blood can easily flow to the heart, easing the chest pain and decreasing blood pressure. These drugs also affect your heart rate and slow it down which lessens the strain on your heart, reducing the risk of arrhythmia.

Calcium channel blockers are given for life-long use and come in form of pills, but they can also be given through IV. 

Amlodipine, felodipine, verapamil, isradipne, diltiazem, nifedipine are some of the common calcium channel blockers. 

Sodium Channel Blockers:

Another class of medicines that work on the principle of slowing down electrical conductivity, thereby decreasing heart rate, is sodium channel blockers. These medicines block sodium channels that lead to reduced electric signals in your heart. 

Beta Blockers for High Blood Pressure:

Beta-blockers can treat a range of arrhythmias including ventricular tachycardia and atrial fibrillation. They are usually first-line arrhythmia cures that treat arrhythmias symptomatically. 

Acebutolol, propranolol, bisoprolol, nadolol, and atenolol are some of the common beta blockers for arrhythmias as well as high blood pressure. 

Potassium Channel Blockers: 

These are the class of medicines that treat all types of heart irregularities, from too fast to too low and improper beating. Amiodarone, bretylium, dronedarone, sotalol, dofetilide, and ibutilide are common potassium blockers used to treat arrhythmia. 

Anticoagulants: 

In some conditions, the fluctuating heart rate can leave a huge impact on the blood flow and may put you at the risk of developing clots and ultimately stroke. In such situations, doctors prescribe blood thinning medications and anticoagulants that reduce the risk of blood clots

Anticoagulants do not directly treat arrhythmia but they do stop the formation of clots in your blood, preventing you from severe heart conditions.

Dabigatran, edoxaban, rivaroxaban, apixaban, are some of the common anticoagulants. 

How Effective are Antiarrhythmic Medications?

Antiarrhythmic medications can prolong the lives of those patients who have been diagnosed with arrhythmia. They manage electrical problems of the heart and ease irregular heart rhythms. Thus, antiarrhythmic medication holds paramount importance in keeping your heart healthy and preventing you from further heart problems. 

Risks Associated with Antiarrhythmics Consumption


Like any other medication, antiarrhythmics also come with substantial risks. These medicines produce noticeable side effects from the start and may reduce with time. Common side effects include issues with the kidney, thyroid, liver, and lungs, tiredness, nausea, and shortness of breath. 

More severe side effects are chest pain, severe headache, swollen mouth, acute shortness of rathe, and swelling of lips and tongue. 

These medicines can also cause sunlight sensitivity and skin changes so it is important to protect your skin from sunlight while taking these medications. Immediately consult your doctor if severe side effects show up and start harming you. 

How to Consume Antiarrhythmics?

Most antiarrhythmics are consumed orally in form of pills, over a long time period for lasting results, but some are also administered intravenously in case of emergencies 

Conclusion

To keep yourself healthy and active, you must take measures to keep yourself from developing serious heart conditions. If you feel any irregularities in your heartbeat, consult your doctor immediately to find out the cause. In case of arrhythmia, strictly follow your medicine prescription and keep your doctor in the loop for every single development. 

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 08/22/2022

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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