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Propranolol is a medication that can be used to treat migraine headaches.


What is the medicine, Propranolol?

Propranolol is a member of the class of drugs known as beta blockers. It prevents the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are stress hormones, relaxes blood vessels, and slows heart rate. However, the exact way it prevents migraine is unknown. To note is that propranolol is better known for the treatment of high blood pressure.

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How you take Propranolol

Propranolol is available as film-coated tablets and as an oral solution. Tablets are usually taken 2–3 times a day, starting at 40 mg increasing to 80–160 mg a day. Tablets are swallowed with water before a meal. The oral solution contains 5mg or 40 mg or 50 mg per 5 mL. The dose for adults with liver or kidney failure, and older adults may be initially lower than usual, and dependent on the individual’s response to the medicine. Doses given to children are dependent on their body weight and/or age. Your doctor will tell you the dose of tablet or how much solution to take and when.


You should not stop propranolol unless told by your doctor to do so, as you may experience side effects. Do not compensate for a missed dose by taking two doses next time (carry on as instructed), and contact your doctor immediately if you take too much.


Who can take Propranolol?

Propranolol is for adults and children who get severe headaches or migraines. As with all medicines, do not take propranolol if you are allergic to it or the ingredients used in the preparation. This medicine is not suitable for people with heart problems (such as heart failure, rate/rhythm abnormalities, heart defects and chest pain when at rest), very low blood pressure, problems with blood circulation, asthma/breathing difficulties, and untreated phaeochromocytoma. Additionally, before you take this medicine, inform your doctor if you have allergies, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, overactive thyroid, myasthenia gravis, Raynaud’s disease, and pain when walking. Take advice if you are pregnant, breast feeding, or trying for a baby; propranolol is not generally recommended for women who are pregnant or breast feeding.


Different medicines may also limit your use of propranolol, so let your doctor know all that you take or have recently taken. These include medicines to treat heart problems (e.g., propafenone, verapamil, diltiazem, quinidine, amiodarone, and lidocaine), high blood pressure (e.g., clonidine and methyldopa), migraine (e.g., rizatriptan and ergotamine), mental illness (e.g., monoamine oxidase inhibitors, fluvoxamine, and chlorpromazine), insomnia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, respiratory disease, pain, and infection. You may be at risk if you smoke tobacco.


Side effects of Propranolol

Seek medical advice immediately if you feel dizzy and faint or have an allergic reaction on taking propranolol. Commonly, side effects include fatigue, irregular heartbeat, cold fingers and toes, sleep problems, and shortness of breath. Some people have nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea when first taking this medicine. Rarely, propranolol may affect your blood, causing more bruising, nose bleeds, and infection; worsen your heart condition; lower your blood pressure further (hence, feeling dizzy or faint); and cause swollen, painful, red blood vessel under the skin. Other rare effects may include skin rashes and sensations (e.g., itching and tingling), sensory disturbances (e.g., sound and vision), breathing problems, fluctuating mood, difficulty thinking clearly, psychoses, and loss of memory. Muscle weakness, sweating, and changes in blood levels of lipids and sugar, and in kidney function have also been reported.


Mention this medicine to the appropriate healthcare professional if you are having an anaesthetic or blood and urine tests, as it may interfere with the outcomes.


A Free Consultation with our GP is available for this condition
On Diagnosis, treatments are sent direct to you
by our pharmacy using Next-Day delivery!