Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are a class of medications that relax the blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure. This makes it easier for the heart to pump blood.

They work by blocking the effects of the angiotensin II hormone, a substance produced by the body that leads to blood vessel constriction.

Clinical Uses of ARBs

Angiotensin II receptor blockers are prescribed most commonly for the treatment of the following medical conditions:

  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage due to diabetes)
  • heart failure.

ARBs are commonly prescribed for people who could not tolerate side effects from an ACE Inhibitor, such as a cough.

ARBs are commonly prescribed with other heart medications, such as beta blocker and/or diuretics (water pills).

Benefits of Using an ARB

Clinical studies have shown that patients who use an ARB in addition to other heart medications have a lower risk of either dying from heart disease or having a nonfatal heart attack or stroke.

Types of ARBs

There are several forms of Angiotensin II receptor blockers available.

  • candesartan (Atacand®)
  • eprosartan (Tevetan®)
  • irbesartan (Avapro®)
  • losartan (Cozaar®)
  • olmesartan (Benicar®)
  • telmisartan (Micardis®)
  • valsartan (Diovan®)

Side Effects of ARBs

Few people have side effects when taking angiotensin II receptor blockers, but possible side effects may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Back and leg pain
  • Diarrhea

Some people who take ARBs can get too much potassium in their blood. This may cause problems with the heart beat or the heart’s rhythm.

Rare but more-serious side effects include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Allergic reaction
  • A drop in white blood cells
  • Localized swelling of tissues (angioedema)

Because angiotensin II receptor blockers can cause birth defects, don't take them if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Read the Medication Guide you receive with your prescription for a complete list of  usage instructions and side effects. 

Reference: National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (NHLBI)

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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