Drug Therapy: Digitalis

Digitalis increases the force of each heartbeat by increasing the amount of calcium in the heart's cells. It can control irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) by slowing the signals that start in the sinoatrial node, which reduces the number of signals that travel through the atrioventricular node and reduces irregular heartbeats.

Digitalis increases blood flow throughout the body and can reduce swelling in the hands and ankles caused by blood pooling there when the heart does not pump efficiently. It is prescribed for persons who have congestive heart failure and heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation.

If this medication is prescribed, the doctor should be made aware of any other drug, vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement the patient is taking, especially:

Patients should avoid caffeine, diet pills and laxatives, as well as cough, cold or sinus medicines. The doctor should be told if the patient has:
  • Allergies to digitalis medicines, foods or dyes
  • Have other health conditions, such as thyroid disease, liver disease, lung disease or kidney disease
  • Been thinking about becoming pregnant or already is pregnant
To learn more about these types of drugs and their side effects, click on the links below:
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