Calcium Channel Blocker Uses

Calcium Channel Blockers for Arrhythmias

An arrhythmia is an irregular heart rhythm. There are many different types of arrhythmias that are due to many different causes. Calcium channel blockers are often used to treat atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT).
With these types of arrhythmias, the electrical system of the heart is not functioning normally, with electrical signals being produced irregularly and too rapidly. Calcium channel blockers work by slowing down the electrical signals sent through the atrioventricular node (AV node) of the heart. This doesn't cure the arrhythmia; it simply prevents certain parts of the heart from responding to the rapid and irregular electrical signals.
Only one calcium channel blocker is approved for arrhythmias -- Calan® (diltiazem). It is approved for use along with digoxin (Digitek®, Lanoxin®) to help control the heart rhythm in people who have atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation. Calan is also approved to prevent PSVT in people who have recurring problems with this kind of arrhythmia. Although they are not approved for this use, other non-dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers are often used to treat arrhythmias.

How Do Calcium Channel Blockers Work?

Calcium channel blockers help to slow down the rate at which calcium moves into your heart and blood vessel walls. This, in turn, helps to relax the blood vessels, which improves blood flow and makes it easier for the heart to pump blood.
There are two basic types of calcium channel blockers, dihydropyridine and non-dihydropyridine. The most important difference between the two types is that non-dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers can slow down the heart rate, while dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers do not. Because non-dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers slow down the heart rate, they can be useful for certain types of arrhythmias.
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