Noncardiogenic Uses of Beta Blockers

Beta-blockers, or bets-adrenergic blocking agents, are a group of medications that block the effects of the substance adrenaline, or epinephrine, reports Examples of beta-blockers include atenolol, carvedilol, timolol and propranolol. These medications are primarily used to reduce blood pressure and to slow down the patient’s heartbeat. However, beta-blockers can also treat other illnesses and disorders. Due to their noncardiogenic effects, beta-blockers are very important drugs physicians can use to combat disease.


Glaucoma is a disorder characterized by a severe increase in the pressure within the eye. This can lead to damage to the optical nerve and potentially irreversible vision loss. Beta blockers are the drugs most often used in this condition, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Beta-blockers lower the pressure in the eye by decreasing production of the liquid within the eye. Specific drugs used include timolol, carteolol and betaxolol. Side effects of beta-blockers usually prove less irritating than other glaucoma medications, and include reduced libido, depression, fatigue, decreased heart rate and a low blood pressure.

Migraine Headaches

Migraines are severe headaches that can include visual and sound hallucinations, nausea and vomiting. Recurrent headaches can prevent people from working efficiently and cost the United States over 13 billion dollars a year, according to Dr. Modi and Dr. Lowder in their article “Medications for Migraine Prophylaxis”. Beta-blockers such as propranolol and timolol can help to prevent the recurrence of migraines in approximately fifty percent of patients. Other beta-blockers, such as atenolol, metropolol and nadolol also work to prevent headaches, but are not as effective. Side effects of these medications include fatigue, nausea, insomnia and depression, but patients can usually tolerate these adverse effects well. Physicians should never prescribe beta-blockers to patients with asthma, hypoglycemia, hypotension and cardiac block to treat their migraine headaches.

Anxiety Disorders

Patients who become unable to perform daily lifestyle tasks due to feelings of apprehension, unease or fear may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. These patients usually have underlying problems that cause the anxiety. Anxiety medications can assuage the bad feelings the patient experiences, but do not cure the underlying cause of the anxiety disorder.

Beta-blockers present another treatment option for patients with anxiety, states By blocking the effects of the stress hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, beta-blockers are able to control the physical symptoms of anxiety including a fast heartbeat, sweating, tremors in the hands and dizziness. Beta-blockers have very little direct effect on the emotional affects of anxiety. Specific beta-blockers used in patients suffering from anxiety disorders include atenolol and propranolol. Side effects seen in these patients include light-headedness, drowsiness nausea and a slow pulse rate.

About this Author

Joseph Pritchard graduated from Our Lady of Fatima Medical School with a medical degree. He has spent almost a decade studying humanity. Dr. Pritchard writes for the as the SF biology examiner and thoroughly enjoys sharing the knowledge he has accumulated.