What Is Propranolol? - Uses, Side Effects & Withdrawal

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Propranolol is a medication classified as a beta-blocker, and it's used to reduce blood pressure and strain on the heart. Read this lesson to learn what conditions it's used to treat, possible side effects, and withdrawal symptoms.

Propranolol Uses

Propranolol is a medication that is known as a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers are used to treat heart and circulatory conditions, and they work by altering the chemical composition of the body and ultimately lowering blood pressure and reducing strain on the heart.

Specifically, propranolol may be used to treat:

    • angina (chest pains)
    • tremors
    • arrhythmia or abnormal heart rate
    • high blood pressure
    • migraines

It may also be used to either prevent a heart attack or administered directly following a heart attack to lessen the effects. Propranolol shouldn't be used by people who have asthma, are pregnant, or have a history of heart or circulatory system disorders.

Chemical structure of propranolol.
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Common Side Effects

The most common side effects of propranolol include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, stomach cramps, insomnia, fatigue, decreased sex drive, and unusual dreams. Propranolol may cause cold hands and feet, and this is worsened with smoking.

Rare or Serious Side Effects

There are also side effects that may signal a serious complication or reaction to propranolol. Signs of a serious allergic reaction, including trouble breathing, hives, or swelling in the head, throat, or neck should be treated immediately. Slow or uneven heart rate, difficulty breathing, changes in vision, confusion or changes in mood, weakness or loss of coordination, and skin reactions are also possible serious side effects.

Additional potentially serious side effects include numbness or tingling of the limbs, unexplained weight gain, increased thirst and/or urination, aching joints, and easy bruising or bleeding. If the patient shows signs of a chronic infection, they should assess the situation with their doctor.

Interactions

Propranolol may interact with a number of other medications, including those used to treat high blood pressure and heart disorders, blood thinners, antidepressants, prostate disorders, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and steroids. Propranolol may also affect the development of fetuses during pregnancy. Changes in diet and exercise can affect how the body responds to propranolol.

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