Beta blockers work mainly by slowing down the heart. They do this by blocking the action of hormones like adrenaline.
Beta blockers usually come as tablets.
They are prescription-only medicines, which means they can only be prescribed by a GP or another suitably qualified healthcare professional.
Commonly used beta blockers include:
Beta blockers may be used to treat:
Less commonly, beta blockers are used to prevent migraine or treat:
There are several types of beta blocker, and each one has its own characteristics. The type prescribed for you will depend on your health condition.
Beta blockers are not suitable for everyone. To make sure they are safe for you, tell your doctor before starting a beta blocker if you have:
Tell your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or breastfeeding.
It's important not to stop taking beta blockers without seeking your doctor's advice. In some cases suddenly stopping the medicine may make your health condition worse.
There are some medicines that may interfere with the way that beta blockers, including beta blocker eyedrops, work.
Tell your doctor if you're taking:
Most people taking beta blockers have either no or very mild side effects that become less troublesome with time.
Contact your GP if you're having symptoms that bother you or last more than a few days.
Side effects commonly reported by people taking beta blockers include:
It happens rarely, but some people have serious side effects when taking beta blockers.
Tell a doctor straight away if you have:
These are not all the side effects of beta blockers. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.
You can report suspected side effects using the Yellow Card Scheme.
For more information on the side effects of beta blockers, read about the specific medicine you take in our Medicines A to Z.
Most beta blockers are taken once a day, apart from certain beta blockers that are used during pregnancy and Sotalol, which is given 2 or 3 times a day.
If you forget to take a dose of your beta blocker, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is nearly time for your next dose. In this case, just leave out the missed dose and take your next dose as normal.
Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.
If you often forget doses, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
An overdose of beta blockers can slow down your heart rate and make it difficult to breathe. It can also cause dizziness and trembling.
The amount of beta blocker that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person.
Call your doctor or go to A&E straight away if you take too much of your beta blocker.