Digoxin, also called digitalis, helps an injured or weakened heart pump more efficiently. It strengthens the force of the heart muscle's contractions, helps restore a normal, steady heart rhythm, and improves blood circulation.
The symptoms of heart failure can be related to the pooling of fluid in the body or can be secondary to decreased blood flow to the body. Some people with heart failure don't experience symptoms, but here are some of the more common signs:
Shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying down
Swollen legs, ankles, or abdomen
Dry, hacking cough, or wheezing
Other symptoms may include:
Fatigue, palpitations, or pain during normal activities
Digoxin is usually taken once a day. Try to take this drug at the same time every day. Follow the label directions on how often to take it. The time allowed between doses and how long you need to take it will depend on your condition. You may have to take this drug for a long time, possibly for the rest of your life.
What Are the Side Effects of Digoxin?
Possible side effects of taking digoxin include:
Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
Changes in vision, such as flashes or flickering of light, sensitivity to light, seeing things larger or smaller than they are, blurring, color changes (yellow or green), and seeing halos or borders on objects
Drowsiness and fatigue
Irregular heartbeat or slow heart rate
Contact your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms. Your dose may need to be changed. Once you and your doctor have determined the correct dose, you usually will not experience side effects if you take digoxin exactly as prescribed.
Also, contact your doctor if you have any other symptoms that cause concern.
Should I Avoid Certain Food or Medicine While Taking Digoxin?
When taking digoxin:
Digoxin is generally prescribed in combination with diuretics, an ACE inhibitor and a beta-blocker. If you experience an increase in side effects after taking your medications together, contact your doctor. You may need to change the times you are taking each medication.
If you are taking Questran, Questran Light, or Colestid, take it at least two hours after digoxin to prevent interactions.
Consult with your doctor before taking the following over-the-counter medications, as they can interfere with the effects of digoxin: antacids; asthma remedies; cold, cough or sinus medicine; laxatives, medicines for diarrhea; or diet medications.
Follow your doctor's dietary advice, which may include: following a low-sodium diet, taking a potassium supplement, or including high-potassium foods (such as bananas and orange juice) in your diet.
Other Digoxin Guidelines
While taking this drug, your doctor may tell you to take and record your pulse daily. He or she will tell you how rapid your pulse should be. If your pulse is slower than recommended, contact your doctor about taking digoxin that day.
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory so your response to the drug can be monitored. You may have electrocardiograms (ECGs) and blood tests, and your dose may be adjusted.
This medication may cause drowsiness. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this drug affects you.