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Beta blocker drugs are also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents. They work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine (also called adrenaline) on beta receptors, which are molecules that receive signals from the nerves. Beta blocker drugs are useful for treating conditions such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and chest pain (angina) because by blocking adrenaline, these medications help slow nerve signals to the heart. This makes the heart work slower, therefore using less oxygen and blood.


Acebutolol is a beta blocker medication that's either used on its own or in combination with other medications--such as hydrochlorothiazide--to treat high blood pressure. Acebutolol is also effective in treating ventricular arrhythmia, a condition of abnormal heart rate due to premature contractions by the ventricles in the heart. Acebutolol may cause many side effects, some of which can be severe, including: wheezing; shortness of breath; tightness in the chest; chest pain; and swelling of the hands, face or fingers. It can even result in heart failure in rare cases.


Atenolol, similar to acebutolol, is often prescribed alone or with other medications to treat high blood pressure. Atenolol may also be used to treat chest pain and reduce the severity or recurrence of heart attacks. The most common side effects of atenolol-- including depression, irritability, lack of appetite, trouble concentrating and trouble sleeping--usually subside during treatment.


Bisoprolol is a beta blocker medication that helps reduce blood pressure by slowing the rate at which the heart pumps. The information provided by the Drug Effectiveness Review Project indicates that bisoprolol also reduces the frequency of migraines. Bisoprolol may cause side effects including difficulty moving, loss of strength, muscle pain, joint pain, trouble sleeping, diarrhea and vomiting.


Although carvedilol can be used to treat high blood pressure, it's also effective in treating left ventricular dysfunction, a condition in which the left ventricle is still and enlarged due to damage from a heart attack. Carvedilol can also reduce the risk of death for patients suffering from mild heart failure. Carvedilol can cause back pain, weight gain, diarrhea and unusual weakness, as well as more severe side effects such as chest pain, dizziness and shortness of breath.


Metoprolol is often used to treat chest pain, known as angina, and can reduce the risk of repeated heart attacks. It's also administered to patients in heart failure to reduce the risk of death. Metoprolol may cause side effects such as blurred vision, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest discomfort or sweating.


Propranolol is also prescribed to treat migraine headaches, angina and hypertrophic subaortic stenosis, which is a thickened heart muscle. Side effects of propranolol-- including diarrhea, constipation, insomnia, depression and numbing or tingling sensations--are usually mild and resolve on their own.

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