If you are taking medication to control your blood pressure, you may experience symptomssome of which may be side effects from the medication. Many medication-related side effects diminish with time, but if they persist or are troublesome, your doctor may be able to minimize them by lowering the dosage, switching you to another drug, or prescribing medication to counteract the side effects.
Alternatively, some side effectsparticularly the less severe onescan be managed with lifestyle or self-care measures. The measures you can take for some common side effects of antihypertensive drugs are described below. Always consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter remedies or making changes to your diet.
Constipation (calcium channel blockers and central alpha agonists). Eat foods high in fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, bran and legumes) and engage in moderate exercise on most days of the week. If these measures aren't helpful, ask your doctor about laxatives.
Dehydration (loop diuretics). Drink plenty of fluids each day. If you consume beverages containing alcohol or caffeine, do so in moderation.
Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting (all types of antihypertensive medications but especially alpha blockers). When standing up from a seated position, rise slowly. When getting up from a recumbent position, sit on the edge of the bed with your feet dangling for one to two minutes and then stand up slowly. Be especially careful about rising slowly when getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Don't overexert yourself during exercise or in hot weather. Also, try to avoid standing for long periods of time and consuming large amounts of alcohol.
Drowsiness (alpha blockers, beta blockers and central alpha agonists). Ask your doctor if you can take your medication once a day 30 minutes before bedtime. If you need to take multiple doses each day, ask if the last dose can be taken close to bedtime. Also, try to avoid other medications that can lead to drowsiness, such as antihistamines, sleeping pills, prescription pain relievers and muscle relaxants.
Dry mouth (central alpha agonists). Try sucking on sugarless candy, chewing sugarless gum or melting ice cubes in your mouth. If these measures do not provide relief, ask your doctor about a saliva substitute.
Frequent urination at night (beta blockers and diuretics). Ask your doctor whether you can take your medication in a single dose in the morning after breakfast. If you require more than one dose daily, ask whether you can take the last dose before 6 p.m.
Headaches (ACE inhibitors, alpha blockers, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers and direct vasodilators). Taking a hot shower or bath, pressing a cold pack to the painful area, regular exercise and deep breathing may relieve headaches. If these measures aren't helpful, ask your doctor to recommend a headache medication.
Increased sensitivity to cold (alpha blockers, beta blockers and direct vasodilators). Dress warmly and be sure to keep your ears, hands and feet covered in cold weather. Take extra precautions when you anticipate prolonged exposure to cold.
Increased sensitivity to sunlight (beta blockers, direct vasodilators and diuretics). Try to avoid direct sunlight, particularly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing protective clothing (including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses) and using sun block and lip balm with an SPF of at least 15. Do not use sunlamps or tanning beds or booths.
Potassium loss (loop and thiazide diuretics). Increase your intake of potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. Alternatively, your doctor may add a potassium supplement or a potassium-sparing diuretic to your treatment regimen.
Tender, swollen or bleeding gums (calcium channel blockers). Practice good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing teeth and massaging gums daily. Have your teeth cleaned regularly by a dentist.
Upset stomach (angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta blockers, direct vasodilators and diuretics). Ask your doctor if you can take your medication with meals or with a glass of milk.