Blood Pressure Medication: Types and Side Effects
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a dangerous medical condition. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to a number of life-threatening medical conditions:
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
- Kidney disease
A person may suffer from high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. In fact, high blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer.” Fortunately, with regular medical check-ups, high blood pressure can easily be caught and treated.
There are a number of medicines available to treat high blood pressure. These medications are generally safe. However, like with any drug, side effects can occur. Here are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for high blood pressure and the side effects that can occur.
Common Side Effects
Most blood pressure medications will have side effects. Generally, side effects are mild and may go away after several weeks. Common side effects of blood pressure medication can include:
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Ankle swelling
While these side effects are typically mild, it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes in your condition.
Potentially Serious Side Effects
Some blood pressure medications can have potentially life-threatening side effects. These should be reported to your doctor immediately. Serious side effects of blood pressure medication include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Brown or dark-colored urine
If you experience any of these side effects, contact your family physician immediately, but do not stop taking your medication. Sudden cessation of certain blood pressure medications can cause a worsening of conditions, heart attack, or stroke.
Always talk about potential side effects before you begin high blood pressure treatment. After you start taking any medications, update your physician with any changes in your condition, including side effects you’re experiencing.
There are a number of different drugs available to treat hypertension. Your doctor may prescribe one medication or several. It may take time for you and your doctor to find the right dosage and combination of drugs.
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Types of High Blood Pressure Medicine
There are several types, or “classes”, of blood pressure medications. Which type your doctor prescribes will depend on the severity of your condition and the presence of other medical conditions. It’s also common for patients to take more than one type of blood pressure medication.
The most common types of blood pressure medications include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors - Often known as ACE inhibitors, these medications help the body produce less angiotensin, a hormone which causes blood vessels to narrow. Lowering levels of angiotensin relaxes your body’s blood vessels to lower blood pressure. Common brand name ACE inhibitors include Accupril (quinapril), Monopril (fosinopril), and Vasotec (enalapril).
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers - Commonly called ARBs, these drugs work similarly to ACE inhibitors to help relax blood vessels. Some ARBs include Avapro (irbesarten), Diovan (valsartan), and Micardis (telmisartan).
- Beta-blockers - Beta-blockers work by reducing heart rate, in turn lowering blood pressure. Common beta-blockers include Betapace (solotol hydrochloride), Levatol (penbutolol sulfate), and Tenormin (atenolol).
- Calcium channel blockers - This type of drug reduces the amount of calcium entering cells, relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. They can also reduce heart rate, further helping to lower blood pressure. Several common calcium channel blockers include Cardizem (diltiazem hydrochloride), Plendil (felodipine), and Sular (nisoldipine).
- Diuretics - Diuretics are often prescribed as an additional treatment. They work by helping the body eliminate excess water and sodium. For this reason, they’re commonly referred to as water pills. Examples of diuretic medications include Diuril (chlorothiazide), Microzide (hydrochlorothiazide), and Zaroxolyn (metolazone).
While the above are common treatments for hypertension, other types of medication include:
- Central-acting agents
- Renin inhibitors
It may take time for you and your doctor to arrive at the best treatment for you. They will probably recommend lifestyle changes in addition to medication.
Find Prescription Savings
America’s Pharmacy can help you save on your blood pressure medications. Search online for your prescription to see the best savings closest to you. You can also download our mobile app to save on the go.