Digoxin – A Medicine for Heart Problems
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Digoxin is a medicine used to treat certain heart problems like heart failure. Heart failure results when the heart can’t pump blood well enough to supply the body’s needs. If you have heart failure, digoxin can improve your heart’s ability to pump blood. This will often improve symptoms such as shortness of breath.
Digoxin can also help people who have a rapid or irregular heartbeat. This can be caused by a heart problem called atrial fibrillation. Digoxin helps by slowing down and controlling the heart rate.
Digoxin comes in tablet, capsule, and liquid form. It works with minerals in the cells of the heart to reduce strain and keep the heart beating normally.
Path to improved health
How should I take my digoxin?
It’s very important to take your digoxin exactly as your healthcare provider tells you. Digoxin is usually taken once a day. You should try to take it at the same time every day. If you miss a dose, you can take it if less than 12 hours have passed since your normal dosage time. If more than 12 hours have passed, skip that dose altogether. You don’t want to double up on digoxin doses.
It may take several weeks to several months for digoxin to start working. Don’t be surprised if you don’t feel better right away. Keep taking your digoxin, even after you are feeling better. Don’t suddenly stop taking your digoxin. This could make your heart problems worse. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any problems taking the medicine.
Do any foods or other medicines affect how digoxin works?
Some medicines and foods can decrease the amount of digoxin your body absorbs. These include the following:
- Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium
- Some cholesterol-lowering drugs (cholestyramine and colestipol)
- Certain medicines that treat gastrointestinal issues, such metoclopramide or sulfasalazine.
- Some antidiarrheal medicines that contain kaolin and pectin
- Bulk laxatives (such as psyllium, Metamucil)
- High-fibre foods (such as bran muffins) or nutritional supplements (such as Ensure)
Don’t take these medicines or eat high-fibre foods too close to the time you take your digoxin. It could mean that you’ll have too little digoxin in your bloodstream to help your heart. It is better to take digoxin on an empty stomach. Contact your healthcare provider before taking any of the medicines listed above. If your healthcare provider says it’s okay to take these medicines, wait 2 hours between a dose of digoxin and a dose of these medicines.
Digoxin interacts with many other drugs too. You should always tell your healthcare provider and your pharmacist about all the medicines you are taking, including any over‑the-counter drugs, natural remedies and herbal medicines. Always contact your healthcare provider before you take any new medicines.
How will my healthcare provider know if I am getting the right amount of digoxin?
The digoxin dose needed to treat heart conditions is different for different people. Your healthcare provider may do a blood test to make sure you have the right amount of digoxin in your body. Tell your healthcare provider when you normally take your digoxin. Your healthcare provider may want you to wait to take your dose. Or they may want to schedule your appointment so that you will have your blood drawn at the right time.
Things to consider
Most people can take digoxin without experiencing many side effects. However, you could have side effects, especially if you get too much digoxin. These side effects include the following:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Tiredness or weakness
- Slow heartbeat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision changes (blurred or yellow)
It is important to pay attention to these side effects, because too much digoxin is dangerous. You should contact your healthcare provider right away if you experience any of these symptoms.
There are also symptoms when you are not getting enough digoxin. You should discuss your condition and symptoms with your healthcare provider. If you have heart failure, the following symptoms may mean that you are not getting enough digoxin:
- More shortness of breath than usual
- A decrease in your ability to climb stairs or walk
- Waking up short of breath at night
- Shortness of breath when you lie flat or sleep on more pillows than usual
- More frequent trips to the bathroom during the night
- Increased ankle swelling or feeling that your shoes are too tight all of a sudden
If you have atrial fibrillation, the following symptoms may mean that you are not getting enough digoxin:
- A rapid pulse (more than 100 beats per minute)
- Palpitations, or a feeling that your heart is racing
- A change in your heart rate
- Fainting or blackouts
If you develop any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Your healthcare provider will decide how to adjust medication and/or manage symptoms as needed.