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Side Effects of High Blood Pressure Medications

(continued)

Medications Used to Treat High Blood Pressure continued...

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

These high blood pressure medications shield blood vessels from a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow. This allows blood vessels to stay open. One of the more common side effects of ARBs is dizziness.

Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)

These high blood pressure medications keep calcium from entering heart muscle and blood vessel cells. Blood vessels can then relax. CCBs may cause these side effects:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irregular or very rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Swollen ankles

Alpha-Blockers

Alpha-blockers reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily. These medications may cause:

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or weakness when standing up suddenly or getting up in the morning (from reduced blood pressure)
  • Fast heart rate

Alpha-2 Receptor Agonist

This high blood pressure medication decreases activity in the adrenaline-producing part of the nervous system. It may cause drowsiness or dizziness.

Alpha-Beta-Blockers

These high blood pressure medications reduce nerve impulses and also slow the heartbeat. Patients with severe high blood pressure often receive them by intravenous (IV) injection. But the doctor may also prescribe these medications for people who have congestive heart failure. Alpha-beta blockers may cause a drop in blood pressure when you stand up suddenly or first get up in the morning. This can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or weakness.

Central Agonists

These high blood pressure medications control nerve impulses, relaxing blood vessels.

Central agonists may cause:

  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or weakness when standing up suddenly or getting up in the morning (from a drop in blood pressure)
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Erection problems
  • Fever

Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors

This type of medication blocks neurotransmitters in the brain, so the message to constrict doesn't reach smooth muscles. Used less often than other high blood pressure medications, these drugs can cause:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or weakness when standing up suddenly or getting up in the morning (from reduced blood pressure)
  • Erection problems
  • Heartburn
  • Stuffy nose

If nightmares or insomnia persist, talk with your doctor about another HBP medication option.

Vasodilators

Vasodilators relax muscles in vessel walls, opening blood vessels and allowing blood to flow better. These medications may cause:

  • Excessive hair growth
  • Fluid retention
  • Headaches
  • Irregular or very rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Swelling around the eyes

Renin Inhibitor

This newer class of high blood pressure medication works by decreasing chemicals that tighten blood vessels. This medication may be used alone or in combination with another medication. Side effects may include:

  • Cough
  • Diarrhea or stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Rash

If High Blood Pressure Drug Side Effects Bother You

Partner with your doctor. Ask if there are any take steps you can take to lessen medication side effects. For example, to lessen the effects of low blood pressure, it may help to avoid standing for a long time in the sun. In some cases, side effects such as fatigue or diarrhea may subside with time. In other cases, your doctor may change the dosage or prescribe another high blood pressure medication. A combination of medications sometimes works better than one medication alone by not only improving high blood pressure control but also by reducing side effects.

Also, when you first start a new high blood pressure medicine, be aware of rare allergic reactions. Call 911 right away if you develop hives, wheezing, vomiting, light-headedness, or swelling in your throat or face.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 23, 2013
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