Harvard Heart Letter

Common blood pressure drugs can trigger rare allergic reaction

Taking an ACE inhibitor? Tell your doctor if you notice any swelling of your lips or tongue.

In the world of cardiovascular drugs, ACE inhibitors are all-stars. These blood vessel-widening drugs lower blood pressure, ease the workload of an ailing heart, and ward off kidney disease in people with diabetes. Examples include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), and lisinopril (Prinivil).

But like all medications, they can cause side effects. The most common one is a dry, irritating cough that occurs in about 5% of users. A lesser-known side effect called angioedema—swelling of the lips, tongue, and face—happens in less than one in 100 people. But because this reaction is potentially dangerous, it's important to recognize it if you're among the 40 million Americans who take an ACE inhibitor.

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