Verapamil: Uses And Side Effects

Verapamil is often used for cardiovascular diseases, but it can also be used for mania or prophylactically for migraines. 

Verapamil: use and side effects

The drug  verapamil  can be administered orally or intravenously, depending on the patient and the particular disease. This drug is mostly used for angina pectoris, high blood pressure and arrhythmias.

It is a drug from the group of calcium antagonists that  has a vasodilating effect. Verapamil belongs to class IV of the VAUGHAN / WILLIAMS classification of antiarrhythmics and is more efficient than digoxin in controlling atrial fibrillation. Digoxin is the drug par excellence for strengthening the heart.

Verapamil is mainly used for cardiovascular diseases. In addition , it can also be used successfully for other diseases. For example in manias or in the prophylaxis of migraines.

The various presentations that are available in stores are designed for different diseases. For example, sustained-release tablets can be used to treat angina pectoris. And there are also ophthalmic drops for treating increased intraocular pressure and / or glaucoma.

What are arrhythmias?

Verapamil for heart disease

An arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm in the heart. The heartbeat may be faster or too slow. In the first case one speaks of bradycardia, in the second of tachycardia.

In this case, the heart impulse is impaired, which leads to disturbances in stimulation and conduction. Often a benign cardiac arrhythmia develops, which is referred to as reentry tachycardia.

Most arrhythmias are benign. But there are also dangerous cardiac arrhythmias. And these can endanger the patient’s life and must therefore be controlled.

The four most common types of arrhythmias are:

  • Extrasystole
  • Supraventricular arrhythmias
  • Ventricular arrhythmias
  • Bradyarrhythmias

What is angina pectoris?

This disease, like myocardial infarction, is an ischemic heart disease  caused by damage to and obstruction of the coronary arteries. 

This situation is also known as arteriosclerosis and occurs when cholesterol, lipids and inflammatory cells build up on the arterial walls. As a result, the heart cannot be supplied with sufficient blood and the organism does not function properly.

Angina pectoris progressively develops as a result of gradual damage to the cardiac arteries. This disease is classified as follows:

  • Stable angina pectoris: In this case, the pain occurs during physical activity and can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Unstable angina pectoris: The pain is also present at rest and lasts longer than with stable angina pectoris.

How does the drug Verapamil affect the organism?

How does the drug Verapamil affect the organism?

This medicine is very effective for the diseases mentioned because it blocks the calcium channels and thus reduces the influx of calcium ions into the interior of the muscle cell. This reduces the contractility of the vascular smooth muscle cells of the peripheral arteries and the coronary arteries and allows the blood vessels to expand. But the plasmatic calcium values ​​are not influenced by it.

In addition, this drug intervenes in the release of calcium ions inside the cells, which are stored in the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). Thanks to the reduced calcium level inside the cell, the drug reaches the dilation of the heart muscle by impairing the contractile mechanism. This is also the case with the smooth muscles of the blood vessels.

In this way, the peripheral resistance and thus the afterload, i.e. those forces that counteract the contraction of the muscles of the heart chambers, are reduced. These mechanisms explain the beneficial effects of the drug verapamil in angina pectoris and high blood pressure.

Unwanted side effects from verapamil

Adverse side effects from verapamil 

The most powerful side effects of verapamil are as follows:

  • Sinus bradycardia
  • Reflexive sinus tachycardia
  • AV block (atrioventricular block) of various degrees. This may make therapy with another drug necessary.
  • Blood pressure too low

It is important to  note that these side effects are more common when verapamil is given intravenously.

In addition, other complaints and side effects can occur due to the vasodilating effect:

  • dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • fatigue
  • a headache
  • Nausea
  • stomach pain

In rare cases, patients may be  hypersensitive to this drug. 

Final remark

Verapamil is a  drug that is used in particular to treat angina pectoris, high blood pressure and arrhythmias. Because it can have dangerous side effects, special care should be taken during treatment. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations and consult them if you have any complaints or doubts.

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