ACE inhibitors are commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure, heart problems and other conditions. Find out how they work and their potential side effects.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help relax your veins and arteries to lower your blood pressure. ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in your body from producing angiotensin II, a substance that narrows your blood vessels. This narrowing can cause high blood pressure and force your heart to work harder. Angiotensin II also releases hormones that raise your blood pressure.
Examples of ACE inhibitors
Many ACE inhibitors are available. The best one for you depends on your health and other factors. For example, people with chronic kidney disease may benefit from having an ACE inhibitor as one of their medications.
Examples of ACE inhibitors include:
Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
When ACE inhibitors are used
In addition to high blood pressure, ACE inhibitors prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions such as:
Coronary artery disease
Certain chronic kidney diseases
Scleroderma — a disease that involves hardening of the skin and connective tissues
Your doctor may prescribe other medications in addition to an ACE inhibitor, such as a diuretic or calcium channel blocker. ACE inhibitors shouldn’t be taken with an angiotensin receptor blocker or with a direct renin inhibitor.
ACE inhibitor work better for younger people than for older people. They also work better for white people than for black people. Your doctor may recommend a different medication.
Doctors commonly prescribe ACE inhibitor because they don’t often cause side effects.
If side effects do occur, they may include:
Increased potassium levels in the blood (hyperkalemia)
Dizziness from blood pressure going too low
Loss of taste
In rare cases, particularly for black people, women and smokers, ACE inhibitor can cause some areas of the tissues to swell (angioedema). If swelling occurs in the throat, it can be life-threatening.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), decrease the effectiveness of ACE inhibitor. Taking an occasional dose of these medications shouldn’t affect how your ACE inhibitor works, but talk to your doctor if you regularly take NSAIDs.
ACE inhibitor can be harmful to you and your baby during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about other options to treat high blood pressure.