What Are the Effects of Digitalis?

Meshell Powell

There are potentially both positive and negative effects of digitalis use. The positive effects include increased blood flow, reduction of tissue swelling, and a stronger heartbeat. This medication may also be used to treat conditions such as epilepsy and constipation or to induce vomiting. Possible negative side effects of digitalis include gastrointestinal disturbances, muscle weakness, or confusion. Any specific questions or concerns about the effects of digitalis in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Confusion is one possible side effect of digitalis.
Confusion is one possible side effect of digitalis.

Used primarily to treat congestive heart failure, digitalis works to restore proper blood flow and helps to strengthen a weak heartbeat. Patients who have swelling of the hands or feet may also benefit from the positive effects of digitalis. In some cases, this medication may be used to treat other medical conditions, including epilepsy or other seizure disorders, constipation, or chronic headaches. This drug may also be used to induce vomiting in some situations.

Digitalis may be taken to induce vomiting.
Digitalis may be taken to induce vomiting.

Most people who take digitalis experience mild to moderate side effects, although severe complications are possible. Some of the most frequently reported side effects of digitalis include gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea, nausea, or decreased appetite. Vomiting may occur in some patients, although this symptom is usually mild. Severe cases of diarrhea or vomiting should be reported to a doctor, as dehydration may occur. A mild skin rash in not usually a cause for concern, but if this symptom is accompanied by facial swelling or difficulty breathing, immediate medical care is essential.

Additional side effects of digitalis may include dizziness, drowsiness, or confusion. Visual disturbances and frequent urination may indicate the presence of digitalis toxicity and should be reported to a doctor right away. Headaches may develop when using this medication, but a sudden or severe headache that does not respond to treatment should be treated as a medical emergency. Men who are prescribed this drug may experience side effects such as breast enlargement or erectile dysfunction.

Although digitalis is predominately used to help the heart function more efficiently, the opposite may occasionally occur. In some cases, the heart rate may become irregular and the patient may begin to experience noticeable heart palpitations. Chest pain, shortness of breath, or a feeling of lightheadedness may accompany these symptoms. If these potential side effects of digitalis occur, emergency medical assistance should be obtained immediately. The use of this medication can sometimes interrupt heart function so severely that sudden death occurs.

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