Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

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Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help relax blood vessels. ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in your body from producing angiotensin II, a substance in your body that affects your cardiovascular system by narrowing your blood vessels and releasing hormones that can raise your blood pressure. This narrowing can cause high blood pressure and force your heart to work harder.

Examples of ACE inhibitors

Many ACE inhibitors are available. Which one is best for you depends on your health and the condition being treated.

Examples of ACE inhibitors include:

  • Benazepril (Lotensin)
  • Captopril
  • Enalapril (Vasotec)
  • Fosinopril
  • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
  • Moexipril (Univasc)
  • Perindopril (Aceon)
  • Quinapril (Accupril)
  • Ramipril (Altace)
  • Trandolapril (Mavik)

Uses for ACE inhibitors

Doctors prescribe ACE inhibitors to prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Certain chronic kidney diseases
  • Heart attacks
  • Scleroderma
  • Migraines

Your doctor may prescribe other medications in addition to an ACE inhibitor, such as a diuretic or calcium channel blocker, as part of your high blood pressure treatment. ACE inhibitors are usually taken once daily, and many people take them in the morning.

Side effects and cautions

Doctors commonly prescribe ACE inhibitors because they don't often cause side effects.

Possible ACE inhibitor side effects include:

  • Dry cough
  • Increased blood-potassium level (hyperkalemia)
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Rapid heartbeat

In rare cases — but more commonly in blacks and in smokers — ACE inhibitors can cause some areas of your tissues to swell (angioedema). If it occurs in the throat, that swelling can be life-threatening.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve, others) decrease the effectiveness of ACE inhibitors. While taking an occasional dose of these medications shouldn't change the effectiveness of your ACE inhibitor, talk to your doctor if you regularly take NSAIDs.

Because ACE inhibitors can cause birth defects, don't take them if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Last Updated: 2010-12-16
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