What is Propranolol?

Malcolm Tatum

Propranolol is one of several popular beta blockers currently on the market. While the drugis usually associated with alleviating hypertension, propranolol is also often employed as a prophylaxis for the management of migraines, primarily with children. In the form of propranolol hydrochloride, the medication is marketed under a number of brand names around the world.

People who experience recurring migraines may take propranolol as a prophylactic medication.
People who experience recurring migraines may take propranolol as a prophylactic medication.

The development of propranolol occurred during the decade of the 1950’s. Envisioned and developed by James W. Black, the new beta blocker was created by deriving elements of dichloroisoprenaline and pronethalol, two established adrenergic antagonists. Black would later win a Nobel Prize in Medicine in recognition of his pioneering work in the creation of the drug.

Beta blockers can be used to treat conditions such as abnormal heart rhythm and chest pain.
Beta blockers can be used to treat conditions such as abnormal heart rhythm and chest pain.

Along with use in treating hypertension, propranolol can be used independently or in conjunctions with other drugs to treat a number of health issues. The medication is helpful in managing angina pectoris, as well as aiding in situations where anxiety and problems with the thyroid gland lead to intense shaking. Propranolol has also proven effective in treating glaucoma. There is some evidence that the drug can also help ease the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSB), although this condition is not currently accepted widely in the medical community.

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Propranolol may not be a good medication choice for elderly people.
Propranolol may not be a good medication choice for elderly people.

While propranolol is effective in a number of treatments for health ailments, it does carry some of the same risks associated with most beta blockers. The drug may expedite the onset of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes in some users. There is also some indication that the success rate for propranolol and beta blockers in general is higher when used for treating younger persons; the efficacy appears to decrease when utilized as a treatment regimen for elderly people.

Untreated hypertension could trigger a stroke or heart disease.
Untreated hypertension could trigger a stroke or heart disease.

Along with the chance of expediting the development of diabetes, propranolol may also mask some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, making a diagnosis more difficult to achieve. In situations where the patient is suffering with myasthenia gravis, using propranolol to treat hypertension may increase the rate of progression of the disease. Physicians should be advised of any pre-existing health conditions before propranolol is used. If the physician determines that the risk of taking propranolol is not worth the degree of benefits that would be derived from the drug, another medication can be substituted.

Physicians sometimes prescribe propranolol to treat hypertension.
Physicians sometimes prescribe propranolol to treat hypertension.
Hypertension is caused by large amounts of blood pumping heavily against the walls of the arteries, which may begin to narrow and weaken.
Hypertension is caused by large amounts of blood pumping heavily against the walls of the arteries, which may begin to narrow and weaken.
Propranolol may mask symptoms of hyperthyroidism that can make the condition tougher to diagnose.
Propranolol may mask symptoms of hyperthyroidism that can make the condition tougher to diagnose.

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