High blood pressure is (for adults), is condition in which systolic pressure is 140 mm Hg or greater and/or a diastolic pressure is 90 mm Hg or greater. Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic reading of less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic reading of less than 80 mm Hg.
Calcium channel blockers are a diverse group of antihypertensive prescription medications used to treat high blood pressure, angina, abnormal heart rhythms, migraines, inadequate blood flow to the hands and feet and certain psychiatric disorders.
Calcium channel blocking drugs lowers blood pressure by slowing the movement of calcium into the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. This relaxes blood vessels and makes it easier for the blood to flow.
The calcium channel blockers can be split into two families, the Dihydropyradines (e.g. Amlodipine, Clevidipine, Felodipine, Lercanidipine, Nifedipine, Nimodipine) which mainly have a role in the management of angina and high blood pressure and the rate limiting calcium channel blockers or Non-dihydropyridines which share these properties but also have a use in changing the rate and rhythm of the heart (e.g. Verapamil and Diltiazem).
Calcium channel blockers are generally safe medicines but like any other allopathic medicine they also have certain side effects. Patients should be aware of these side effects. In case, side effects are severe than one can ask the doctor to change the same.
Some of the side effects are given below.
Slowing of gut that may lead to gas being trapped in the bowel, due to slow movement. The result is excessive abdominal gas and related health problems.
Enlargement of the gums tissue (called gingival hyperplasia) can occur which lead to bleeding and erosion of the gums.
As these drugs drop the blood pressure, in some people this may give a sensation of light-headedness or dizziness.
Calcium channel blockers widens the arteries and veins and can occasionally cause ankle swelling.
Some infrequent (0.1–1%) side effects include palpitations, tachycardia/ faster than normal heart rate at rest and chest pain with dihydropyridines, orthostatic hypotension, abdominal pain, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, constipation (common with verapamil), gingival hyperplasia (usually reversible), polyuria (including nocturia), tinnitus/ ringing in the ears, rash, itch.
other Rare (<0.1%) side effects include taste disturbance, elevation of hepatic enzymes, extrapyramidal reactions (drug induced movement disorders), gynaecomastia ( enlargement of the male breast tissue), hypersensitivity reactions, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome, exfoliative dermatitis (peeling of the skin over large areas), angioedema and vasculitis.
Calcium channel blockers can cause sexual dysfunction, weight gain and breathing difficulties (shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing).
Dihydropyridines commonly cause peripheral oedema due to redistribution of extracellular fluid (rather than fluid retention);this does not respond to treatment with diuretics, which may put patient at risk of volume depletion.
Calcium channel blockers are prescription drugs and must be taken under specialist guidance. Patient should observe the side effects and must tell the doctor in case they are persistent or severe.