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ACE inhibitors

Description

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are medicines. They treat heart, blood vessel, and kidney problems.

Alternative Names

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors

How ACE inhibitors help

ACE inhibitors are used to treat heart disease. These medicines make your heart work less hard by lowering your blood pressure. This keeps some kinds of heart disease from getting worse. Most people who have heart failure take these medicines.

These medicines treat high blood pressure, strokes, or heart attacks. They may help lower your risk for stroke or heart attack.

They are also used to treat diabetes and kidney problems. This can help keep your kidneys from getting worse. If you have these problems, ask your health care provider if you should be taking these medicines.

Types of ACE inhibitors

There are many different names and brands of ACE inhibitors. Most work as well as another. Side effects may be different for different ones.

Taking Your ACE inhibitors

ACE inhibitors are pills that you take by mouth. Take all of your medicines as your provider told you to. Follow up with your provider regularly. Your provider will check your blood pressure and do blood tests to make sure the medicines are working properly. Your provider may change your dose from time to time. In addition:

  • Try to take your medicines at the same time each day.
  • DO NOT stop taking your medicines without talking to your provider first.
  • Plan ahead so that you do not run out of medicine. Make sure you have enough with you when you travel.
  • Before taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin, talk to your provider.
  • Tell your provider what other medicines you are taking, including anything you bought without a prescription, diuretics (water pills), potassium pills, or herbal or dietary supplements.
  • DO NOT take ACE inhibitors if you are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Call your provider if you become pregnant when you are taking these medicines.

Side effects

Side effects from ACE inhibitors are rare.

You may have a dry cough. This may go away after a while. If it does not, tell your provider. Sometimes reducing your dose helps. But sometimes, your provider will switch you to a different medicine. DO NOT lower your dose without talking with your provider first.

You may feel dizzy or lightheaded when you start taking these medicines, or if your provider increases your dose. Standing up slowly from a chair or your bed may help. If you have a fainting spell, call your provider right away.

Other side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Numbness
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes or blisters
  • Joint pain

If your tongue or lips swell, call your provider right away, or go to the emergency room. You may be having a serious allergic reaction to the medicine. This is very rare.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if you are having any of the side effects listed above. Also call your provider if you are having any other unusual symptoms.

References

James PA, Oparil S, Carter BL, et al. 2014 evidence-based guideline for the management of high blood pressure in adults: report from the panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8). JAMA. 2014;311(5):507-520. PMID: 24352797 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24352797.

Januzzi JL, Mann DL. Clinical assessment of heart failure. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 23.

Ridker PM, Libby P, Buring JE. Risk markers and the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 42.

Yancy CW, Jessup M, Bozkurt B, et al. 2013 ACCF/AHA guideline for the management of heart failure: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on practice guidelines. Circulation. 2013;128(16):1810-1852. PMID: 23741057 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23741057.

Review Date:8/2/2016
Reviewed By:Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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