These drugs act directly on the blood vessel walls, relaxing muscles to allow blood to flow more easily. Direct vasodilators such as hydralazine and minoxidil are used only in individuals with hypertension that is extremely difficult to control; they are also sometimes used to treat a hypertensive crisis.

To prevent fluid retention and a rapid heartbeat, they must be used in combination with a diuretic and a beta blocker. Vasodilators also cause headaches and joint pain.

Publication Review By: Lawrence Appel, M.D., and Rafael H. Llinas, M.D.

Published: 15 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 16 Jul 2013