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Side Effects of High Blood Pressure Medications

Any medication can cause side effects, and high blood pressure (HBP) medications are no exception. However, many people do not have side effects from taking hypertension drugs, and often the side effects are mild. Still, it's important to stay informed and work closely with your doctor to manage any side effects you may have. There's no reason to "suffer in silence." Today there are more medication options than ever for managing high blood pressure (hypertension).

This article lists the side effects that may be caused by each type of high blood pressure drug. First, here are four general warnings.

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  1. Never stop taking medication without first talking to your doctor. In some cases, this can be very dangerous, causing a big spike in blood pressure.
  2. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about the safest medication to use. ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) can cause harmful side effects for pregnant women and their developing babies.
  3. If you take insulin for diabetes, talk to your doctor. Changes in blood sugar can occur in people with diabetes taking diuretics or beta blockers for high blood pressure.
  4. If you have problems with erections during sex, talk with your doctor. Some high blood pressure medications can cause this problem. Reducing the dose or changing to another type of medication may help. But high blood pressure itself can also cause erectile dysfunction.

As an informed patient, read about the type of medication you are taking and its possible side effects. You can find a full list on your medication insert. To get you started, here is an overview of the most common side effects of high blood pressure medications.

Medications Used to Treat High Blood Pressure

Diuretics

These high blood pressure medications flush extra water and sodium (salt) from your body. Diuretics may cause these side effects:

  • Extra urination. Extra water out means more time in the bathroom. Take these medications earlier in the day and when you're not far away from a bathroom.
  • Erection problems in some men.
  • Weakness, leg cramps, or fatigue. Diuretics may decrease the body's levels of the mineral potassium, which can lead to these side effects. Certain potassium-sparing diuretics do not have this effect, however.
  • Intense and sudden foot pain,which is a symptom of gout. This is rare.

Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers make your heart beat less forcefully and more slowly. These medications may cause side effects such as:

  • Asthma symptoms
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Depression
  • Erection problems
  • Insomnia and sleep problems

Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors

These high blood pressure medications block formation of a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow, so vessels relax. ACE inhibitors may cause these side effects:

  • A dry, hacking cough that doesn't go away. If you have this side effect, the doctor may prescribe another type of medication.
  • Skin rash and a loss of taste are two other possible side effects of ACE inhibitors.

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