Women treated with amiodarone for atrial fibrillation are more likely than men to need a pacemaker to correct slow heartbeat.
Although amiodarone is one of the most effective drugs for treating arrhythmias, it can also be toxic to several organs, so it’s reserved for patients with life-threatening conditions. Patients who take it must be carefully monitored for the occurrence of complications and side effects, which are common to the medication.
Who Shouldn’t Take Amiodarone
Because amiodarone can be toxic to several organs, patients who take it require careful monitoring. It may not be recommended for patients where the risk of harm outweighs the possibilities of good, as in the following conditions:
- Respiratory disease. Even patients without respiratory disease will need to have regular lung-function tests and chest x-rays while taking amiodarone.
- Heart damage from chest radiation or chemotherapy. All patients on amiodarone should have regular ECG exams and blood potassium tests.
- Liver disease. A semi-annual liver-function test is recommended for amiodarone users.
- Thyroid disease. Amiodarone users also need a thyroid-function test every six months.
- Vision problems. An annual eye exam is recommended for all amiodarone users.
What to Watch For While Using Amiodarone
Amiodarone interacts with a wide array of other medications. Be certain to let your doctors know all the medications you are taking when amiodarone is prescribed, and let your doctors know that you are taking amiodarone if they prescribe additional drugs.
Amiodarone is first started in a hospital or other monitored healthcare setting. Once you are on maintenance therapy, you will need to see your doctor for the tests described above.
Do not drive, use machinery or do anything that requires mental alertness until you know how amiodarone affects you. To reduce the risk of dizziness or fainting, do not stand or sit up quickly.
Amiodarone can make you more sensitive to the sun; in fact, sun exposure may give your skin a bluish-grey cast. If you cannot avoid being in the sun, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen. Do not use sun lamps or tanning beds/booths.
You should have regular eye exams before and during treatment. Call your doctor if you have blurred vision, see halos, or your eyes become sensitive to light. Your eyes may get dry. It may be helpful to use a lubricating eye solution or artificial tears solution.
If you are going to have surgery or a procedure that requires contrast dyes, tell your doctor or healthcare professional that you are taking this medicine.
Because your condition and use of this medicine carry some risk, it is a good idea to carry an identification card, necklace or bracelet with details of your condition, medications and doctor or healthcare professional.
Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011
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