Amiodarone HCL is a medication prescribed to treat irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias, that may be life-threatening. A doctor may prescribe it for patients with persistent ventricular fibrillation who have not been helped by other medications. This drug is an antiarrhythmic agent that works to restore a steady heartbeat by blocking certain types of electrical signals. Amiodarone HCL also relaxes heart muscles that are overactive.
This medicine is typically taken once or twice each day. It is available as a tablet to be taken orally, or by mouth. Patients may take the dosages with or without food; however, they must remain consistent. For example, if they begin taking each dose with food, they must continue to do so. The patient may remain hospitalized for at least one week when beginning treatment so that the doctor may monitor possible reactions to the drug.
Some serious complications may rarely develop from the use of amiodarone HCL. Infrequently, people may experience a worsening of irregular heartbeats or they may develop a new type of arrhythmia. Lung and liver damage may also occur, which can be life-threatening. Overactive or underactive thyroid function may also develop. To help ensure patient safety, the doctor may order periodic laboratory tests, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs) and blood tests.
Side effects may develop with the use of amiodarone HCL, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. Patients may experience fatigue, loss of appetite, and uncontrollable shaking. They may also notice constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Flushing, dry eyes, and a decreased sex drive have also been reported.
More serious side effects require a doctor's urgent care. Signs of potential liver damage may include jaundice, extreme fatigue, and dark urine, along with pain in the upper portion of the stomach. Those who develop lung damage may experience wheezing, shortness of breath, and other breathing difficulties. They may also notice a fever, a cough, or coughing with blood.
Few patients have developed vision problems from amiodarone HCL, which have included rare cases of permanent blindness. Patients should see their doctors immediately if they experience any vision changes, such as seeing halos. Amiodarone HCL may also affect thyroid function. Possible symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can include unexplained weight loss or gain, a goiter, and heat or cold intolerance.
Before using amiodarone HCL, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. It is strongly recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid this drug. Amiodarone HCL may be contraindicated for use by those who have liver or lung disease, thyroid problems, or high blood pressure. It may interact with other drugs, including blood thinners, narcotic pain relievers, and cough medicines. Grapefruit and grapefruit products may also interfere with this medication.