Other Medicines for High Blood Pressure

Examples

Alpha-adrenergic blockers (alpha-blockers)

Generic NameBrand Name
doxazosinCardura
prazosinMinipress
terazosinHytrin

Central alpha-adrenergic agonists

Generic NameBrand Name
clonidineCatapres

Direct vasodilators

Generic Name
hydralazine
minoxidil

How It Works

These medicines lower high blood pressure by opening up (dilating) the blood vessels. This allows blood to flow more easily, which lowers blood pressure.

Some of these medicines need to be combined with other medicines to counteract the body's natural tendency to retain fluid and increase heart rate when there is a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Why It Is Used

These drugs often are used in combination with other drugs to treat high blood pressure when first-line medicines alone do not control blood pressure. They might be used if a person is in a hypertensive crisis.

These medicines are used to treat other health problems, too.

How Well It Works

These medicines are effective in helping reduce blood pressure. They are usually not used as the first medicine but are added on to other therapies.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects include:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Increased or irregular heart rate.
  • Headache.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

For tips on taking blood pressure medicine, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. High Blood Pressure: Taking Medicines Properly.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Drugs for hypertension (2012). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 10(113): 1–10.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Last Revised April 5, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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