What they do
The most commonly-used digitalis preparations are digoxin and digitoxin. Both may mildly strengthen your heart and reduce your heart rate slightly. Digitalis may also decrease oedema (swelling caused by the build-up of fluid). It’s especially useful in people with irregular heart rhythms, notably atrial fibrillation with a rapid heart rate.
What are the expected benefits?
Digitalis helps to control your heart rate, thereby improving symptoms.
It is important that you are given the right dose of digoxin – your doctor or nurse will do regular blood tests to check this. If you are given too much digoxin you may lose your appetite or develop nausea (feeling sick), headache or blurred / coloured vision.
Occasionally, high levels of digoxin can cause abnormal heart rhythms which could make you experience palpitations or black outs – if you have either of these symptoms you should see your doctor.
If you have a lower than average potassium level (this can happen, for example, if you have insulin-dependent diabetes, or are taking diuretics) you may be more likely to have high levels of digoxin. You should therefore make sure you can recognise the early signs of too much digoxin, such as nausea, loss of appetite or an extremely slow heartbeat. You should see your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms.
Before having any kind of surgery, including dental or emergency treatment, you should tell your doctor, dentist or surgeon that you are taking digoxin.
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