Calcium Channel Blockers vs. Beta Blockers

Instructor: Sarah Bryant

Sarah has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an active Registered Nurse license. She teaches in hospitals, clinics and the classroom.

This lesson will describe the differences in calcium channel blockers (CCB's) and beta blockers (BB's). It will delve in to the two different cardiac medication in depth and reveal their common uses.

Similar Needs in Patients

Kevin has a condition in which his fingers and toes change color and are sometimes painful. This is called Raynaud's phenomenon, and can occur from extreme temperature changes, a reaction to cold weather, and at times, emotional stress.

The condition is caused by small blood vessels get more narrow, therefore, Kevin needs something to open them up again.

Joe on the other hand complains of something called angina, which is where you will have pain in your chest due to a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood flow to the heart. He needs something that will open up the vessels and allow the heart to stop working so hard to supply blood to the rest of the body.

Kevin and Joe both have issues that call for similar medications. They both will need medications that lower blood pressure, called calcium channel blockers and beta blockers. Oddly enough though, these medications will work in different ways. This is due to where the two types of medications work.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) work to dilate (open up) blood vessels and in turn will relieve pain and help with the discoloration of Kevin's condition. Kevin is getting treatment with calcium channel blockers because of their ability to affect vessels that are further away from the heart - vessels in his extremities (arms, hands, legs, feet).

Calcium channel blockers, like their name implies, block the movement of calcium through their respective channels within the body. This blocks calcium from entering cells of the heart and blood vessel walls and, therefore, prevents them from constricting.

Calcium channel blockers (CCB) block calcium from going through channels to enter the cell.

They are often used in cardiac complications, and can also be called calcium channel antagonists or calcium antagonists.

CCB's will alter vessels that are further away from the heart (peripheral arteries) and large vessels that tie into the hearts blood flow (coronary arteries) via dilation, and decrease the force of the heart pumping (myocardial contractility) to a degree.

Side effects of using this medication can include: Reflex tachycardia (quickened heart rate), flushing, headache, and swelling of the ankle.

Beta Blockers

Beta receptors on cells are prevented from attaching to other molecules by beta blockers
beta blockers

Calcium channel blockers could be used in Joe's case, but in this instance let's say he has an underlying condition preventing the use of CCB's.

Beta Blockers (BBs) are the best choice for Joe due to his issues coming directly from the arteries surrounding the heart. BB's work to lower the heart's workload and open up those arteries close to the heart by inhibiting hormones like adrenaline and blocking beta receptors.

Cells have receptors that attach to molecules that create reaction. Beta blockers will place a similar looking molecule on the receptor, therefore 'blocking' or taking up the place that other molecules could formerly attach to and create a reaction. It's like a fake-out for your cells, faking them out to think they are already full and attached, but it's with a molecule that doesn't do anything.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account