High blood pressure in individuals in the United States is high, with the condition reportedly affecting almost half of the adult population. Different types of medication are used for treating the condition – for instance, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers, among others. Calcium channel blockers are effective treatment options that are popularly prescribed for treating the condition. By virtue of the mechanism of action and the intended outcomes, medications trigger side effects and calcium channel blockers are no exception. Here is a look at the side effects of diltiazem and the best methods to deal and manage the effects.

Drug overview and side effects of diltiazem

Before we look at the side effects of diltiazem, it is necessary to understand all about the drug and its mechanism of action. Belonging to the category of calcium channel blockers, diltiazem offers antihypertensive and vasodilating effects. It works by preventing the influx of calcium into vascular, cardiac smooth muscle, and as a result is used as an anti-anginal agent. In use for almost four decades since FDA approval, the vasodilator is used for managing cardiovascular conditions, and other off-label uses that include anal fissures and cramps in lower limbs.

The mechanism of action of diltiazem involves a binding action, that prevents the extracellular calcium from moving across the myocardial, smooth vascular muscle cell membranes. As a result of the decreased levels of intracellular calcium, the smooth muscles relax, which in turn brings about arterial vasodilation and consequently lowers blood pressure levels. The medication is available as an extended release formulation in addition to being administered intravenously. By reducing the calcium levels in the targeted smooth muscles, the medication helps in increasing oxygen delivery to the myocardial tissue, while lowering the demand for oxygen. It helps reduce heart rate, bring down blood pressure and helps individuals with angina perform exercises without the pain typically associated with the condition.

Commonly reported side effects of diltiazem

There are different types of side effects attributed to the drug – common and serious. The common side effects are relatively minor in nature and resolve naturally after a short period of time without the need for medical intervention. Only when the side effects persist or are intense in nature is it necessary to seek medical attention. This category of side effects include the following – individuals are likely to experience a buildup of fluids or swelling as a result of fluid build up. The rate of heart beat is known to reduce and this is one of the reasons why it is used by patients with angina. Individuals are also known to experience general weakness, dizzy feelings and possible headache while on the medication. Other possible side effects include nausea and the outbreak of rashes that are mild in nature.

Side effects of diltiazem that are regarded as serious in nature

Side effects of diltiazem that are considered as serious in nature are rare occurrences and may often require medial attention. In some instances, the side effects are extremely serios and require urgent attention. For instance, individuals are likely to develop heart problems as a result of the medication. Commonly reported symptoms associated with heart problems include a reduced heart beat rate, and an increase in chest pain. Other side effects that warrant attention include various skin related conditions, such as a swelling in the face or the tongue. Patients may also develop red/purple rashes on the skin that are clearly visible and unrelated to any other condition. In addition to the above, patients may also end up with liver complications with discernible symptoms. For instance, patients may experience discoloration of the urine, and pain in the upper portion of the stomach. It is also likely that individuals may witness a yellowing of the skin and in the whites of the eyes.

Drug interactions of the medication

In addition to the side effects of diltiazem it is also important for patients to take note of the drug interactions of the medication and exercise caution accordingly. Diltiazem may interact with herbal or vitamin supplements and other medications used by patients. It is necessary to inform the treating specialist about the all existing conditions and treatment regimens including intake of supplements. Antibiotics are known to interact with the medication and trigger a decrease in the amount and effectiveness of diltiazem in the body. To put this differently, individuals on certain antibiotics may end up lowering the efficacy of diltiazem in treating angina or high blood pressure. It is therefore necessary to check with the specialist before taking prescription or OTC antibiotics.

Similarly, diltiazem is known to interact with medications used for treating anxiety. The drug may trigger an increase in the levels of the anxiety medications and this could result in stronger side effects associated with the anti-anxiety drugs. Other side effects of diltiazem that need to be borne in mind, includes the effect of the drug on medication for managing cholesterol levels. Diltiazem is known to cause an increase in the levels of medications for managing cholesterol. Consequently, the side effects that are associated with cholesterol medications may be aggravated. Patients on medications for treating heart conditions need to be alert to the possible drug interactions. Diltiazem can cause an increase in the levels of medications used for treating heart related issues. As a result of this, there is a possibility of increased side effects from the medications for treating heart conditions. Additionally, diltiazem is also known to result in reducing heart beats when taken in combination with a few drugs for treating heart conditions. For instance, patients on beta blockers may end up with bradycardia, when beta blockers are taken alongside diltiazem.

The anti-hypertensive medication is known to interact with immune system suppressant drugs. Diltiazem will trigger an increase in the levels of immunosuppressant drugs when both medications are taken alongside. As a result of this, individuals may experience more side effects that are associated with immuno suppressant drugs. It is therefore necessary to exercise utmost caution while combining the two types of medications. Similarly, the drug is also known to trigger an increase in the levels of medications used for treating seizures. As a result of the increased levels of the drugs, there is a possibility of patients experiencing more side effects associated with drugs used for treating seizures.

The need to take note of drug warnings when taking medication

In addition to the possible side effects of diltiazem it is also important to take heed of the drug warnings. For instance, the drug is known to reduce heart rate and individuals are to therefore inform treating specialists of pre-existing heart conditions that cause a reduction in heart rate. The reduced heart rate may combine with the pre-existing condition to considerably reduce the heart rate which could manifest into a serious condition. As anti-hypertensive medication, the drug will reduce blood pressure levels. Consequently, individuals may experience dizziness and should therefore be cautious about the nature of activities. This will prevent accidents that could occur as a result of feeling dizzy/faint. The drug is also known to trigger an increase in the liver enzymes. As a result, there is a possibility of this harming the liver in rare cases. However, the silver lining is the fact that this condition is reversible and the effects resolve after the medication is stopped.

How to deal with overdoses?

With the side effects of diltiazem behind us, it is time to understand how to deal with possible overdoses. The drug is known to cause serious effects as a result of overdose. This includes bradycardia, cardiac failure, extreme fatigue, hypotension apart from heart block. Overdose is typically treated by procedures that are supportive in nature depending on the severity and type of the condition. Gastrointestinal decontamination is one of the measures used alongside supportive procedures. The use of fluids, vasopressors, atropine, inotropic agents, ventilators, and activated charcoal are some of the other procedures involved in managing overdose.

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