The Unexpected Way Beta-Blockers May Help With This Illness

Beta-blockers are a class of medications that are predominantly used to treat hypertension. That's because beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of the stress hormone epinephrine (via WebMD). This can help relax blood vessels in the body and even help slow down your heart rate. Believe it or not, high blood pressure isn't the only condition that beta-blockers can help manage, however. As it turns out, beta-blockers can also help treat migraines.

Although beta-blockers can't stop or reduce the effects of a migraine after one has already started, they can be used as a preventative measure to help ward off migraine attacks in the future (via Healthline). While it's still unknown how beta-blockers can help with migraines, they most likely prevent attacks by decreasing stress, restricting blood flow to the brain, increasing activity in the hypothalamus, reducing electrical activity in the nervous system, and maintaining serotonin levels in the brain.

Some beta-blockers are better than others for migraines

Not all beta-blockers work the same, however. In fact, some are more effective at preventing migraines than others. According to Verywell Health, the most common and effective beta-blockers for migraines are propranolol, timolol, atenolol, and nadolol. Research has shown that propranolol can effectively lower the frequency of migraines, while timolol can regulate serotonin levels in the brain to help prevent them. Meanwhile, atenolol and nadolol are also effective at preventing migraines but are associated with fewer side effects. Common side effects of beta-blockers include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, depression, and a reduced ability to exercise.

Since beta-blockers can reduce blood pressure, there is also a low risk that they can cause hypotension, or low blood pressure (via Verywell Health). While rare, this can be accompanied by confusion, lightheadedness, and loss of consciousness. You may also experience some adverse effects if you take beta-blockers and blood pressure medications at the same time. That's why you should tell your doctor about all the medications you're on before they prescribe you beta-blockers or any other type of drug that could interfere with your other medications. For the most part, however, beta-blockers are safe and effective and tend to work best when paired with other remedies, like stress relief.