What are Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors?

Marjorie McAtee

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors help to improve heart function by relaxing the blood vessel walls. The many types of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors can lower blood pressure and ease the symptoms of heart disease while preventing kidney damage, stroke, and heart attack. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors work by blocking the activity of angiotensin II, the enzyme that helps regulate blood pressure by maintaining tension in the blood vessel walls. When less of this enzyme functions in the body, blood pressure drops and circulation improves. Side effects are uncommon and usually not serious.

ACE inhibitors may be given to a patient after a heart attack to lower blood pressure.
ACE inhibitors may be given to a patient after a heart attack to lower blood pressure.

Angiotension-converting enzyme inhibitors are most often used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Angiotension-converting enzyme inhibitors can help ease the symptoms of congestive heart failure by improving heart function. When blood pressure is lowered, the heart doesn't have to work so hard to pump blood through the body. This can help to relieve the symptoms of congestive heart failure and other forms of heart disease, as well as preventing strokes and heart attacks. Because angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors improve circulation, they can help prevent kidney damage in diabetics.

ACE inhibitors.
ACE inhibitors.

There are several types of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors currently in use. Captopril, enlalapril, moexipril, and ramipril are some examples of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Usually the drugs are taken orally in a tablet form.

These drugs should generally not be mixed with NSAIDs, potassium supplements, or potassium-sparing diuretics. Those taking angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are typically advised to consult with a doctor about potential dangerous drug interactions that can occur. Specifically, patients should discuss their use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements with a doctor before beginning to take the medication.

Side effects of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are uncommon, but include dry cough, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Fatigue, rash, headache, fever, and upset stomach can occur. Loss of appetite, numbness, diarrhea, or joint pain are also common side effects of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Swelling of the lips or tongue could indicate an allergic reaction to the drug. Those who experience an allergic reaction are typically advised to seek emergency medical help immediately.

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