ACE inhibitors treat a variety of conditions, such as high blood pressure, scleroderma and migraines. Find out more about this class of medication.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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 narrows your blood vessels and releases hormones that can raise your blood pressure. This narrowing can cause high blood pressure and force your heart to work harder.

Many ACE inhibitors are available. Which one is best for you depends on your health and the condition being treated. People with chronic kidney disease may benefit from having an ACE inhibitor as one of their medications. Black and older people respond less well to ACE inhibitors than do white and younger people.

Examples of ACE inhibitors include:

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

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.

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
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of taste

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

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

Because ACE inhibitors can cause birth defects, talk to your doctor about other options to treat your blood pressure if you're pregnant or you plan to become pregnant.

June 29, 2016