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High blood pressure and ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are common drugs used to treat high blood pressure. They block the action of some hormones that affect blood pressure and in doing so relax blood vessels to improve the amount of blood the heart pumps and lower blood pressure. ACE inhibitors also increase blood flow, which helps to decrease the amount of work your heart has to do and can help protect your kidneys from the effects of hypertension and diabetes.

ACE inhibitors are also used to treat a number of heart-related conditions, including heart failure, heart attack and preventing kidney damage associated with high blood pressure and diabetes.

ACE inhibitors can cause side effects if taken with other medications, including over-the-counter products. Seek medical advice before taking anything not already prescribed for you in combination with this medication.

What are the side effects of ACE Inhibitors?

Like any drug, an ACE inhibitor is like to have some side effects. The most common ones include:

  • Persistent dry cough. If this symptom persists or is severe, seek medical advice.
  • Red, itchy skin rash. Seek medical advice and do not treat the rash yourself.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness upon rising. This side effect may be strongest after the first dose, especially if you have been taking a diuretic (water pill). Get up more slowly. Seek medical advice if these symptoms persist or are severe.
  • Salty or metallic taste or a decreased ability to taste. This effect usually goes away as you continue taking the medication.
  • Physical symptoms. Sore throat, fever, mouth sores, or swelling of feet, ankles and lower legs. Seek medical advice if you have any of these symptoms. Unusual bruising, fast or irregular heartbeat, chest pain needs urgent medical advice.
  • Swelling of your neck, face, and tongue. See urgent medical attention. These represent a serious emergency.
  • High potassium levels. This is a potentially life-threatening complication. Therefore, people on ACE inhibitors should regularly have blood tests to measure potassium levels. Signs of too much potassium in the body include confusion, irregular heartbeat, nervousness, numbness or tingling in hands, feet or lips, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and weakness or heaviness in legs. Seek medical advice right away if you have any of these symptoms.
  • Kidney Failure. Although ACE inhibitors help to protect the kidneys, it can also cause kidney failure in some people.
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhoea. If you have severe vomiting or diarrhoea you may become dehydrated, which can lead to low blood pressure. Seek medical advice.

Also seek medical advice if you have any other symptoms that cause concern.

Guidelines for taking ACE inhibitors

Always take medicines as directed by the doctor. Never stop taking your medication, even if you feel that it is not working, without discussing it with your doctor first.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 22, 2014

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