Antiarrhythmics are drugs that are used to treat abnormal heart rhythms resulting from irregular electrical activity of the heart. There are many different types of antiarrhythmic drugs. Examples include:
In addition, there are other types of heart drugs that can be used to treat arrhythmias, including:
- Beta-blockers such as metoprolol or Toprol XL, which reduce the heart's workload and heart rate.
- Calcium channel blockers such as verapamil or Calan, which also reduces the heart rate.
There are also a variety of drugs used by the doctor in an emergency situation to control or convert an abnormal heart rhythm.
Why Do I Need to Take an Antiarrhythmic Drug?
Your doctor has determined that you have an abnormal heart rhythm that would be best treated with drugs alone or in addition to a procedure, such as putting in an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).
Because these drugs only control abnormal heart rhythms, not cure them, you may have to take them for life.
Can I Take Other Drugs While Taking Antiarrhythmics?
If you are taking an antiarrhythmic, talk to your doctor before taking any other drugs (prescription or over-the-counter), herbal remedies, or supplements.
Are There Side Effects Associated With Antiarrhythmics?
Yes, antiarrhythmics do have side effects. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following side effects:
- Worsening arrhythmias
- Allergic reaction
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the feet or legs
- Blurred vision
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormally fast heartbeat
- Abnormally slow heartbeat
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Other potential side effects you should discuss with your doctor if you experience them include:
- Bitter or metallic taste or change in taste
- Loss of appetite
- Increased sensitivity to sunlight
- Diarrhea or constipation
When first taking antiarrhythmics, avoid operating heavy machinery (for example, driving) until you know how the medication will affect you. Ask your doctor for advice about what to avoid doing and when you can resume.