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Blood Pressure Drugs - Page 10

Direct Vasodilators

Direct Vasodilators

(check with manufacturer for specific information)

Commonly prescribed brands:



Apresoline (Novartis)


How they are given:

  • Oral

What they are used for:

You should not be treated with them if:

  • You have a tumor of the adrenal gland (pheochromocytoma)(minoxidil)
  • You have systemic lupus erythematosus

Possible side effects:

  • Flushing, water retention (swelling of the limbs); weight gain; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; breast tenderness; skin rashes
  • Excessive hair growth (minoxidil)
  • Worsening of chest pain
  • Pericardial effusion (fluid buildup around the heart that may prevent it from pumping properly)
  • Increased heart rate


  • The safety of these drugs during pregnancy is unknown
  • Minoxidil should not be used while nursing. The safety of hydralazine during nursing is unknown.

How do direct vasodilators work?
Blood pressure drugs that widen blood vessels are called vasodilators. Direct vasodilators act directly on the smooth muscle in the walls of your blood vessels, causing them to widen. Examples include hydralazine (Apresoline) and minoxidil (Loniten).

Who should take direct vasodilators?
Because they often cause side effects, direct vasodilators are usually used only after several types of other drugs combined have failed to control your blood pressure.

What are the possible side effects of direct vasodilators?
Direct vasodilators can cause a dangerous increase in heart rate, fluid retention, and swelling ( edema). They usually must be combined with a beta blocker or the central acting drug clonidine to prevent these side effects. Another common side effect of minoxidil is excessive hair growth all over the body (it's found in the hair loss treatment Rogaine).

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