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ACE Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors may be used to control blood pressure or to reduce your symptoms and improve your prognosis if you have congestive heart failure.

These medications help your heart to work more efficiently. They also dilate the blood vessels to the kidney and increase excretion of urine (diuretic effect).

These medications also have a favorable effect on how the heart muscle heals after a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

How do these medications work?
Your body produces a hormone called, "angiotensin I." It also produces an enzyme called, "angiotensin converting enzyme" which converts angiotensin I to another hormone - angiotensin II. Angiotensin II constricts blood vessels. It also increases the secretion from the kidneys of another hormone, "aldosterone." Aldosterone causes the kidneys to retain salt and water and to excrete potassium. This leads to an increase in blood volume and blood pressure.

ACE inhibitors are medications which prevent the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II. This helps dilate (open) the blood vessels and excrete salt and water from the body.

What are the potential side effects of ACE inhibitors?
If you are taking ACE inhibitors, you may develop a persistent dry cough. Sometimes the cough will interfere with your ability to talk. This problem may improve with a change of dose or by taking additional medications.

Weakness, rash, and fever are other potential side effects, but they are rare.

Some people may have an allergic reaction to ACE inhibitors. You may experience a loss or alteration in your sense of taste. Some people experience a taste of stainless steel.

Are there any risks or dangers associated with this medication?
If you take ACE inhibitors, the level of potassium in your blood may rise because the drug impedes the kidney's ability to excrete potassium.

If you have abnormal kidney function, your condition may worsen.

Is there anyone who should not take this medication?
If you are a pregnant woman or a nursing mother, your doctor will probably recommend that you refrain from taking ACE inhibitors.

For how long can I take this medication?
You may take ACE inhibitors indefinitely. They present no tolerance problems.

Are there any medicines which I should not take in conjunction with ACE inhibitors?
You should be very careful about taking ACE inhibitors if you are taking a potassium supplement such as K-Dur or a "potassium-sparing diuretic" such as Spironolactone (Aldactone).

If you are taking a diuretic medication (water pill), you will probably have to stop it 2 to 3 days before starting on the ACE inhibitor. You may be able to add it back later on. Consult with your physician.

Are there any underlying medical conditions which would prohibit the use of ACE inhibitors?
If you have kidney failure or if you are prone to low blood pressure, your doctor will probably recommend that you do not take ACE inhibitors.

If I am taking this medication, is there anything I must do (e.g. take it with food)? Is there anything I must not do?
If you are taking ACE inhibitors, your doctor should monitor your kidney function and your electrolytes (ionized salts in your body).

Are there any other medications which have the same or similar effect?
Various blood vessel dilating drugs, beta blockers, and diuretics can replace some of the functions of ACE inhibitor medications.

Are there any natural remedies which have the same or similar effect as this medication?

Can I take a generic version of this medication?
Yes, increasingly there are generic versions of ACE inhibitors.

Is there an over-the-counter version of this medication?
There are no over-the-counter versions of this medication.


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