Antiarrhythmic medications for fast heart rates
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How It Works
Antiarrhythmic medicines work in various ways to return the heart to its normal rhythm. These medicines stabilize heart rhythm by decreasing abnormal firing of the heart's electrical system that causes the heart to beat too fast or by slowing the electrical conduction through abnormal pathways. Some antiarrhythmics also slow the heart rate by reducing the number of impulses that can pass through the atrioventricular (AV) node (amiodarone, sotalol).
Why It Is Used
Antiarrhythmic medicines are used to change an abnormal heart rhythm to a regular rhythm and to prevent an abnormal heart rhythm.
How Well It Works
Antiarrhythmic medicines can effectively control or prevent abnormal heart rhythms. There are many different types of antiarrhythmic medicines. You may need to try different medicines to see which one works best for you.
Some antiarrhythmic medicines may increase the risk of developing a more rapid, abnormal heart rate problem (ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation), especially for those people with a poorly functioning left ventricle. Close monitoring while taking these medicines is important.
Side effects of antiarrhythmics include:
- Chest pain.
- Slow heartbeat.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Unusual taste in the mouth.
- Stomach pain.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Vision problems.
- Urinary retention in men.
- Thyroid disorders.
- Blue tinge to the skin (with amiodarone).
Amiodarone (Cordarone) may cause serious side effects that can lead to death, including lung damage, liver damage, and more severe heartbeat problems. Amiodarone is typically used for people who have severe symptoms when other medicines have failed.
If you take amiodarone and simvastatin, which is a cholesterol medicine, you may have a higher risk of a serious muscle problem called rhabdomyolysis. Simvastatin medicines include Zocor and Vytorin.
Talk to your doctor if you have any side effects or any concerns about taking amiodarone.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
You should learn to take your pulse if you are taking an antiarrhythmic medicine. Notify your doctor if your heart rhythm becomes too slow (less than 50 beats per minute) or irregular while you are taking an antiarrhythmic medicine.
Last Updated: September 17, 2008
Author: Robin Parks, MS