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What Is Mexiletine Used For?

Mexiletine capsules are taken every 8 or 12 hours to treat potentially dangerous heart rhythm problems. By affecting certain electrical signals in the heart, the drug can help stabilize the heart rhythm in adults who have potentially life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. There are also off-label uses for mexiletine, such as treating arrhythmias in children and muscle spasms due to various neurological disorders.

An Overview of Uses for Mexiletine

Mexiletine (Mexitil®) is a prescription medication approved to treat serious ventricular arrhythmias. It belongs to a class of drugs known as antiarrhythmics.
 

What Are Ventricular Arrhythmias?

An arrhythmia is a problem with the heart rhythm that occurs when the electrical impulses that normally control the heartbeat do not work correctly. As a result, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly. An arrhythmia can occur in the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) or the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). An arrhythmia in the lower heart chambers is known as a ventricular arrhythmia.
 
Not all ventricular arrhythmias are serious. Many are temporary and cause little or no symptoms. However, other ventricular arrhythmias can be life-threatening and often require treatment.
 
Ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation are types of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. Ventricular tachycardia occurs when the ventricles beat very quickly, causing a heart rate in excess of 120 beats per minute. Many times, the fast heart rate will resolve on its own within a few seconds and will not cause symptoms.
 
However, if the abnormal heartbeat is very fast or lasts longer than a few seconds, a person may feel symptoms. These can include:
 
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations (feelings of a racing or pounding heart).
 
When ventricular tachycardia persists for longer than 30 seconds, it is considered sustained ventricular tachycardia. This condition is quite serious, and could turn into ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation occurs when the ventricles contract in such an uncoordinated manner that they quiver instead of beating normally. As a result, the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body. Ventricular fibrillation is a medical emergency.
 
Mexiletine is approved to treat life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias, such as sustained ventricular tachycardia. It does not cure the condition, but it can stop the arrhythmia and help maintain a regular heart rhythm. Like other antiarrhythmia medications, mexiletine has not been shown to help people with arrhythmias live longer. Because of this, and because it is associated with potentially serious side effects, this drug should not be used to treat less serious types of arrhythmias.
 
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Mexiletine Drug Information

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