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Digoxin contains the active ingredient digoxin, which is a type of drug called a cardiac glycoside. It is a form of digitalis, a drug that is extracted from the leaves of the foxglove plant.
Digoxin is prescribed in the treatment of congestive heart failure, certain types of irregular heartbeat, and other heart problems. It improves the strength and efficiency of your heart, which leads to better circulation of blood and reduction of the uncomfortable swelling that is common in people with congestive heart failure. Digoxin is usually prescribed along with a water pill (to help relieve swelling) and a drug called an ACE inhibitor (to further improve circulation). It belongs to a class of drugs known as digitalis glycosides.
Digoxin is prescribed to treat certain abnormal heart rhythms caused by abnormal contractions in the upper part of the heart, in particular a condition called atrial fibrillation. In AF, the upper two chambers of the heart, called the atria, contract very rapidly, and the lower two chambers of the heart, called the ventricles, respond by beating rapidly and irregularly. An irregular heartbeat is not very efficent at pumping blood around the body. By slowing the heart rate and making each beat more forceful, digoxin makes the heart pump more efficiently in this condition.
Digoxin is prescribed to treat heart failure, a condition where the hearts ability to pump blood around the body is diminished. By improving the efficiency of each heartbeat, digoxin allows the heart to continue to effectively pump blood and oxygen around the body.
Digoxin works directly on the heart muscle. It slows down the rate at which the heart beats, and increases the force with which the heart muscles contract with every heartbeat. This makes each heartbeat more efficient at pumping blood around the body.
The blood level of Digoxin that is needed for it to be effective is quite close to the blood level that causes unwanted effects. This is true of a few drugs, and is described as a narrow therapeutic index. Treatment can still be safe, and your doctor will monitor your digoxin treatment closely, and may take blood tests to check the level of digoxin in your blood. You should tell your doctor if you experience any side effects during treatment, particularly nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, visual disturbances, palpitations or confusion, as these may indicate your blood level is too high and that your dose needs reducing.
Digoxin is prescribed for the treatment of:
- Irregular heartbeat caused by very rapid contraction of the top two chambers of the heart;
- Heart failure;
- Abnormal heart rhythms caused by abnormal contractions in the upper part of the heart;
Digoxin Side Effects
Digoxin side effects that you should report to your health care professional or doctor as soon as possible:
- A general feeling of being unwell;
- Abnormal enlargement of breasts in men with long term use of drug;
- Abnormal heart beats;
- Blockade of the electrical pathways which control the pumping action of the heart;
- Blurred vision;
- Breast development in males;
- Change in heartbeat;
- Loss of appetite;
- Lower stomach pain;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Skin rashes;
- Slow heart rate;
- Visual disturbances;
- Weakness or loss of strength;
- Yellow vision;
Your doctor will determine your dosage based on several factors:
- The disease being treated;
- Your age;
- Your body weight;
- Your kidney function;
- Other diseases you have or drugs you are taking;
If you are receiving Digoxin for the first time, you may be rapidly "digitalized" (a larger first dose may be taken, followed by smaller maintenance doses), or gradually "digitalized" (maintenance doses only), depending on your doctor's recommendation.
Infants and young children usually have their daily dose divided into smaller doses; children over age 10 need adult dosages in proportion to body weight as determined by your doctor.
If your doctor feels you need rapid digitalization, your first few doses may be given intravenously.
A typical maintenance dose might be a 0.125 mg or 0.25 mg tablet once daily, but individual requirements vary widely.
You'll then be switched to tablets or capsules for long-term maintenance.
The exact dose will be determined by your doctor, based on your needs.