What Is Digoxin Used For?
Available by prescription only, digoxin is licensed to treat heart failure and a type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. Although this medication cannot cure these conditions, using digoxin helps to improve the efficiency of the heart and to slow down and control the heart rate. This medicine is approved for use in adults, children, and infants.
An Overview of Digoxin UsesDigoxin (Lanoxin®) is a prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as cardiac glycosides. It is approved to treat the following heart conditions:
- Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure (CHF)
- Atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat.
Digoxin comes in the form of a tablet, an injection, and an elixir (an oral solution).
Using Digoxin for Heart FailureCongestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart does not pump enough blood throughout the body. Having heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart is not able to pump blood the way that it should.
As the pumping action of the heart grows weak, blood starts to back up in areas of the body. This backup of blood causes fluid to accumulate in body tissues, leading to symptoms of heart failure, such as:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
- Weight gain.
Heart failure can occur on the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart. In left-sided heart failure, fluid may accumulate in the lungs, leading to shortness of breath. In right-sided heart failure, fluid may accumulate and cause swelling (edema) in the legs and feet. If both sides of the heart are affected, symptoms may include those of both left- and right-sided heart failure.
(Click Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure for more information on the common symptoms of heart failure.)
Digoxin is approved to treat mild-to-moderate heart failure. It helps the heart pump more efficiently, so that more blood can be pumped from the heart. In clinical studies, digoxin has been shown to:
- Decrease hospitalization due to heart failure
- Decrease the need for emergency heart failure treatment
- Improve heart failure symptoms (exercise tolerance).
The majority of people in clinical trials were taking other medications in addition to digoxin for their heart failure. Digoxin is often combined with other heart failure medications, including a diuretic (a "water pill") and an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor).
Although Digoxin is not a cure for heart failure, it can help improve the symptoms and reduce complications of the condition.