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:
- Nasal congestion
- Back and leg pain
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)
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