Uses for alpha blockers

Doctors prescribe alpha blockers to prevent, treat or improve symptoms mainly in these conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia)

Though alpha blockers are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, they're typically not 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

Some alpha blockers might have what's called a "first-dose effect." When you start taking an alpha blocker, you might develop pronounced low blood pressure and dizziness, which can make you faint when you rise from a sitting or lying position. As a result, the first dose is often taken at bedtime.

Other side effects might include:

  • Headache
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain

On the positive side, alpha blockers might decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol).

Alpha blockers can increase or decrease the effects of other medications you take. Before taking an alpha blocker, be sure your doctor knows about other medications you take, such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers or medications for erectile dysfunction.

Some research has found that long-term use of some alpha blockers can increase the risk of heart failure. More research is needed to confirm this finding.

June 15, 2016 See more In-depth