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High Blood Pressure Medication: Types and Side Effects

High Blood Pressure Medication: Types and Side Effects

The normal blood pressure ranges from 120 to 129 (systolic or the upper level of blood pressure) and 80 (diastolic or lower level of blood pressure). Any number over 129 for systolic is an indicator of high blood pressure. The necessary course of treatment is best decided by a doctor based on the blood pressure recorded. However, you should definitely know about the types of high blood pressure medicine available along with their possible side effects.

High Blood Pressure Medication: Types and Side Effects

high blood pressure medication

Diuretics

This high blood pressure medication specializes in removing sodium and extra water from the body.

Types

Diuretics can be classified into three major categories as below:

  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics
  • Loop diuretics

There are also combination diuretics that are a mix of more than one diuretics.

Thiazide diuretics usually have a lesser risk of side effects than the other categories.

Side effects

The side effects of diuretics are as below:

  • Erectile dysfunction in some men.
  • Excessive urination: Taking diuretics causes urination that is usual in terms of its quantity. It is often advised that you take the high blood pressure medication in the first half of the day, so that you don’t need to visit the washroom during the night. Also, individuals taking these medications should ensure that there is a washroom at arm’s length as there may be urges to urinate that may be beyond control.
  • Intense and sudden bouts of pain in the feet indicating symptoms of gout, although this is rare.
  • Fatigue and cramps in the legs is another common side effect. This occurs because diuretics may reduce the potassium content in the body. However, there are some diuretics that are devoid of potassium content, and hence, do not result in this side effect.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers control the speed and force of heartbeats. These make the heart pump blood in lesser quantities through blood vessels to lower blood pressure levels.

Types

The common types of beta-blockers are as below:

  • carvedilol
  • atenolol
  • propranolol
  • metoprolol succinate
  • metoprolol tartrate

Side effects

The side effects of beta-blockers are:

  • Symptoms of breathlessness as in the case of asthma
  • Depression
  • Erectile problems in some men
  • Sleeplessness as in the case of insomnia
  • Cold hands and feet

Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors control the production of a hormone called angiotensin II, which narrows down the blood vessels. This enables sufficient space for blood to flow without barriers, thus, reducing the blood pressure level.

Types

Below are some of its types:

  • enalapril maleate
  • benazepril hydrochloride
  • captopril
  • lisinopril
  • fosinopril sodium

Side effects

Below are the side effects of ACE inhibitors:

  • A persistent dry cough. For people experiencing this side effect, the doctor may change this medication and prescribe an alternative.
  • Loss of taste
  • Rashes on the skin

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

This high blood pressure medication protects blood vessels from a hormone called angiotensin II, which blocks unrestricted blood flow. This prevents the blood vessels from becoming narrow, restoring blood pressure levels within the recommended range.

Types

Below are some of its types:

  • telmisartan
  • irbesartan
  • valsartan
  • candesartan
  • eprosartan mesylate
  • losartan potassium

Side effects

The usual side effect of ARBs is dizziness.

Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)

Muscle contractions are important for the movement of calcium to and from muscle cells. This high blood pressure medication blocks calcium from reaching the muscle cells in the heart and blood vessels. This reduces rapid heartbeats and keeps blood pressure levels in check.

Types

Below are some of its types:

  • diltiazem
  • felodipine
  • amlodipine besylate
  • isradipine
  • verapamil hydrochloride
  • diltiazem

Side effects

The following are the side effects of CCBs:

  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Swollen ankles
  • Palpitations of the heart or irregular/very rapid heartbeats

Alpha-blockers or Alpha-1 Blockers

Also known as alpha-1 blockers, this high blood pressure medication controls the tightening of blood vessels, easing the flow of blood.

Types

Some of its types are:

  • terazosin hydrochloride
  • prazosin hydrochloride
  • doxazosin mesylate

Side effects

Below are the side effects of alpha-blockers:

  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Feelings of weakness on getting up with a jerk
  • Weakness while waking up in the morning as a result of low blood pressure

Alpha-Beta-Blockers

This high blood pressure medication decreases the speed of heartbeats and also controls nerve impulses by reducing the constriction of blood vessels. It is usually administered through intravenous (IV) injection amongst people diagnosed with severely high blood pressure and also to those who have suffered congestive heart failure.

Alpha-beta-blockers are a sub-category of beta-blockers and restrict the binding of catecholamine hormones to alpha as well as beta receptors.

Types

Here are some of its types:

  • labetalol hydrochloride
  • carvedilol

Side effects

The side effects of alpha-beta-blockers are as below:

  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Feelings of weakness upon getting up
  • Weakness while waking up in the morning as a result of low blood pressure

Central Agonists or Alpha-2 Receptor Agonists

These high blood pressure medications keep nerve impulses under control by blocking the production of norepinephrine, thus, having a soothing effect on blood vessels.

This, in turn, lowers the level of blood pressure. These medications work in the brain and the central nervous system.

Types

Some of its types are as below:

  • clonidine hydrochloride
  • methyldopa
  • guanabenz acetate
  • guanfacine hydrochloride

Side effects

Below are its side effects:

  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Anemia
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Feelings of weakness on getting up with a jerk
  • Weakness while waking up in the morning as a result of low blood pressure
  • Erection problems amongst some men

Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors

This type of medication blocks neurotransmitters in the brain, so the message to constrict the blood vessels doesn’t reach the brain. Not used often in comparison to other high blood pressure medicines, these drugs can cause:

  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Feelings of weakness on getting up with a jerk
  • Weakness while waking up in the morning as a result of low blood pressure
  • Heartburn
  • Blocked nose
  • Erection problems in some men
  • Sleeplessness or insomnia
  • Nightmares

high blood pressure medication

Vasodilators

Vasodilators are prescribed for relaxing muscles along the walls of the blood vessels, enabling unrestricted blood flow. This is especially relevant for arterioles that are narrow blood vessels. As a result, high blood pressure falls within the normal range.

Types

Below are some of its types:

  • minoxidil
  • hydralazine hydrochloride

Side effects

Below are its side effects:

  • Headaches
  • Inflammation around the eyes
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Fluid retention
  • Palpitations of the heart or irregular/rapid heartbeat
  • Pain of the joints

Direct Renin Inhibitor (DRI)

This new class of high blood pressure medication controls the enzyme called renin, relaxing the narrow blood vessels. This eases the blood flow through these vessels, lowering high blood pressure levels.

Type

The commonly found type of DRI is aliskiren.

Side effects

Below are its side effects:

  • Rashes
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in the stomach
  • Heartburn

While this information about the high blood pressure medicines can keep you aware of their types and side effects, it is important to follow medical advice from your doctor. Do not use them without a valid prescription from your doctor.

Learn more about managing hypertension here.

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Sources

Hypertension Treatment

https://specialty.mims.com/hypertension/treatment Accessed September 10, 2021

High blood pressure medicines https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007484.htm Accessed on 21/04/2020

Medications for High Blood Pressure

https://www.drugs.com/condition/hypertension.html Accessed September 10, 2021

Types of Blood Pressure Medications

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/types-of-blood-pressure-medications Accessed September 10, 2021

High Blood Pressure Treatment

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/treatment/ Accessed September 10, 2021

High Blood Pressure (hypertension) medications https://www.rxlist.com/high_blood_pressure_hypertension_medications/drug-class.htm Accessed on 21/04/2020

How do blood pressure medicines work?

https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/medicines.htm Accessed September 10, 2021

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated 2 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.
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