A single copy of this article may be reprinted for personal, noncommercial use only.
Alpha blockersBy Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alpha-blockers/HI00055
Alternative medicine (1)
- Herbal supplements may not mix with heart medicines
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm
- Spontaneous coronary artery dissection
- see all in Complications
Lifestyle and home remedies (10)
- Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure
- Stress and high blood pressure: What's the connection?
- 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication
- see all in Lifestyle and home remedies
- Symptom Checker
Tests and diagnosis (3)
- Blood pressure chart: What your reading means
- Microalbumin test
- Blood pressure test
Treatments and drugs (9)
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- see all in Treatments and drugs
Alpha blockers, also called alpha-adrenergic antagonists, treat a variety of conditions, such as high blood pressure, benign prostatic hyperplasia and Raynaud's disease. Find out more about this class of medication.By Mayo Clinic staff
Alpha blockers relax certain muscles and help small blood vessels remain open. They work by keeping the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) from tightening the muscles in the walls of smaller arteries and veins. Blocking that effect causes the vessels to remain open and relaxed. This improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
Because alpha blockers also relax other muscles throughout the body, these medications can help improve urine flow in older men with prostate problems.
Examples of alpha blockers
Many alpha blockers are available, in either short-acting or long-acting forms. Short-acting medications work quickly, but their effects last only a few hours. Long-acting medications take longer to start working, but their effects last longer. Which one is best for you depends on your health and the condition being treated.
Alpha blockers are also called alpha-adrenergic blocking agents, alpha-adrenergic antagonists, adrenergic blocking agents and alpha-blocking agents.
Examples of alpha blockers include:
- Alfuzosin (Uroxatral)
- Doxazosin (Cardura)
- Prazosin (Minipress)
- Tamsulosin (Flomax)
Uses for alpha blockers
Doctors prescribe alpha blockers to prevent, treat or improve symptoms in conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
- Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia)
- Some circulatory conditions, such as Raynaud's disease
- Hardening and thickening of the skin (scleroderma)
- Adrenal gland tumors (pheochromocytoma)
Though alpha blockers are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, they're typically not preferred as the first treatment option. Instead, they're used in combination with other drugs, such as diuretics, when your high blood pressure is difficult to control.
Side effects and cautions
Alpha blockers may have what's called a "first-dose effect." When you start taking an alpha blocker, you may develop pronounced low blood pressure and dizziness, which can make you suddenly faint when you rise from a sitting or lying position.
Other side effects include headache, pounding heartbeat, nausea, weakness, weight gain and small decreases in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol).
Alpha blockers can increase or decrease the effects of other medications you take. Tell your doctor if you take any other medications, such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers or medications used for erectile dysfunction, if you're prescribed an alpha blocker.
Some research has found that some alpha blockers can increase the risk of heart failure with long-term use. While more research is needed to confirm this finding, talk to your doctor if you're concerned.
- Flynn JT. Treatment of high blood pressure: Drug therapy. In: Kaplan NM, et al. Kaplan's Clinical Hypertension. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2010:192.
- Types of blood pressure medications. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Types-of-Blood-Pressure-Medications_UCM_303247_Article.jsp. Accessed Sept. 30, 2010.
- High blood pressure: Medicines to help you. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/byaudience/forwomen/ucm118594.htm. Accessed Sept. 30, 2010.
- Kaplan NM, et al. Indications and contraindications to the use of specific antihypertensive drugs. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 30, 2010.
- Chobanian AV, et al. The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. New England Journal of Medicine. 2003;289:2560.