Beta blockers

Learn about beta blockers and how these medicines work to slow down the damage to your kidneys and slow the progression of kidney disease.
Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
February 12, 2024

What are beta blockers? 

Beta blockers are a type of medicine that helps your heart beat slower and with less force. This can lower your blood pressure and help your heart work better.  

Examples of common beta blockers 

  • Atenolol 
  • Metoprolol 
  • Propranolol 
  • Bisoprolol 
  • Carvedilol 

What health conditions do beta blockers treat? 

Beta blockers are used to treat many heart-related conditions, such as: 

  • Aortic dissection: A tear in the inner layer of a weakened area of your aorta, which is the main artery that sends blood from your heart to the rest of your body 
  • Arrhythmias: A heart beat that is not normal  
  • Chest pain (angina): Chest pain that comes and goes when your heart is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood 
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD): A buildup of a substance called plaque that narrows or blocks blood vessels to the heart 
  • Chronic (on-going) heart failure: A long-term condition in which your heart cannot pump blood well enough to meet your body's needs 
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): A condition where the force of blood in your blood vessels is too strong, which can damage your heart and the blood vessel walls 
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM): A disease that causes your heart to get larger. Most people with this disease live a normal life, but it can be serious for some people.   

Beta blockers are sometimes used to treat brain and nervous system conditions, such as: 

  • Migraines: A common disease that causes a throbbing, pulsing headache on one side of your head 
  • Essential tremor: A movement disorder that causes parts of your body to shake 
  • Glaucoma: A group of eye disorders that damage your optic nerve, which sends messages from your eyes to your brain to create visual images 

How do beta blockers slow down the damage to my kidneys?

Beta blockers can slow down kidney damage. They do this by lowering blood pressure, which lessens the strain on blood vessels, including those in your kidneys.

How do beta blockers work? 

Beta blockers work by blocking certain chemicals in your body, for example, adrenaline. Adrenaline is a chemical that makes your heart beat faster and stronger. Beta blockers stop adrenaline from affecting your heart and blood vessels to help: 

  • Slow down your heart rate 
  • Lower your blood pressure  
  • Open up blood vessels 

What are some common side effects of beta blockers? 

Common side effects of all beta blockers include: 

  • Low blood pressure  
  • Arrhythmias (A heart beat that is not normal) 
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)  
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded 
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares 
  • Upset stomach 
  • Dry mouth or eyes

It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about medication and medication management questions you have.