Digoxin is a medication for treating certain types of heart conditions. It does not cure heart problems, but it helps the heart work better, explains the U.S. National Institutes of Health at its MedlinePlus website. Common brand names for digoxin include Cardoxin, Digitek and Lanoxin. Digoxin has common side effects that may result in weight loss.
Digoxin is useful for treating congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms, according to MedlinePlus. Digoxin helps patients with heart failure by improving the heart's ability to pump blood, and for arrhythmia by slowing and regulating the heart rate. It also helps relieve angina, or chest pain that occurs when an area of the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood.
About 25 percent of people taking digoxin report digestive side effects, according to Drugs.com. These effects include lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Nausea and diarrhea are the most common. If any of these reactions is severe or does not dissipate in a short time, consult with your doctor, advises Drugs.com. Some rare cases have been reported of muscle wasting, weight loss and fatigue in patients taking digoxin. The problems were resolved when medication was discontinued.
A study by J. Hannerz published in the April 2001 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Pharmacology" evaluated 14 obese patients taking digoxin for six months. The patients did not have diet restrictions, but all of them experienced weight loss ranging from 7 to 55 lbs. Three patients stopped taking the medication and experienced weight increase.
Weight gain due to fluid retention also can occur while taking digoxin, but this usually is a sign the medicine is not working properly, according to the the American Academy of Family Physicians at its FamilyDoctor.org website. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience unexplained swelling or rapid weight gain while taking digoxin.
Some digoxin side effects call for immediate medical attention, as noted by Drugs.com. They include irregular heartbeat, blurred vision or other vision changes, confusion, depression, hallucinations, unusual bruising or bleeding, or unusual fatigue or weakness. An allergic reaction to digoxin is possible, with signs of a rash, hives, itching, breathing problems, tightness in the chest, and facial or mouth swelling. Digoxin can increase blood sugar levels. In the Hannerz study, five of 14 patients developed diabetes while taking digoxin. Higher doses were associated with a greater risk of developing diabetes.