Hypertension and heart failure are conditions with high prevalence rates in the US, with 47% adults estimated to suffer from hypertension. Heart failure reportedly accounts for 13% of fatalities annually, making this combination of two conditions deadly in nature. Hypertension has the dubious distinction of being a condition that silently degrades the health of the patient, with most individuals becoming aware only at a later stage. Various medications and treatment regimens are presently in use for managing the conditions. Valsartan is one such medication that is prescribed to treat both hypertension and heart failure. Following subsections offer detailed information about the drug, including side effects of valsartan to help patients prevent and manage adverse effects better.

Overview of Valsartan

Belonging to the category of angiotensin-receptor blocker, the medication is either a part of other combination treatment or is used separately to treat hypertension and heart failure. The antihypertensive medication works by selectively binding to angiotensin receptors, and this binding action inhibits angiotensin II from triggering hypertensive actions. For instance, this helps prevent vasoconstriction, and the reabsorption of sodium renally, apart from cardiac stimulation. As a consequence, the medication brings about a reduction in blood pressure levels, reduces cardiac activity, facilitates flushing of sodium and lowers the levels of aldosterone. 

All the above effects help bring a positive impact on the kidneys, apart from a positive impact on vascular and cardiac functions. The medication is routinely prescribed for managing multiple conditions apart from hypertension and heart failure. For instance, it is also prescribed for patients with nephropathy that is linked to Type 2 Diabetes. It is a medication of choice when ACE inhibitors are not tolerated by patients due to various reasons. The Reno protective properties of the medication make it a good choice as part of treatment options for chronic kidney conditions. Studies have demonstrated a reduction in urinary albumin apart from significant protein excretion. This offers diabetics (type 2 diabetes) diagnosed with chronic kidney ailments better results, and is also found to be effective in managing kidney diseases in nondiabetic patients.  The highlight of the medication is the relatively lesser side effects when compared with other medications, and the better tolerance observed in patients.

Ideal dosage of valsartan

To prevent possible side effects of valsartan it is also necessary to follow the dosage instructions diligently. Many patients on medications and treatment regimen experience undesirable effects due to incorrect dosage and improper schedule. The actual dosage of medications depends on various factors such as the age of the patient, the condition being treated, the intensity of the condition, other pre-existing health conditions, medications in use and the schedule or strength of the medication. This section is intended to serve as a broad reference only and is not to be considered as recommendations on dosage for all patients. Typically, patients are prescribed an initial dosage of Valsartan  40 mg twice a day for heart failure, with an upper limit that is not to exceed 320 mg daily. For patients with high blood pressure, the initial dosage is generally either Valsartan  80 mg/ Valsartan  160 mg daily, with a maximum upper limit of 320 mg daily. Valsartan when recommended for use after a heart attack is usually 20 mg initially, taken twice a day, with the same upper limit of 320 mg daily.

Valsartan combination with other medications

The drug is often combined with other medications, and is also used to manage or reduce the risk of to a patient after a heart attack. It is typically combined with amlodipine to treat hypertension. It is also combined with hydrochlorothiazide to treat hypertension in patients. Patients diagnosed with a condition that is commonly known as a long-term heart failure are often prescribed valsartan with sacubitril. The prescription only medication is available in different formulations such as capsules, liquid and as tablets.

Commonly reported side effects of valsartan

Medications are not free from the possibility of undesirable effects, despite better tolerance and superior side effect profile. The mechanism of action of medications and the properties of ingredients triggers side effects, and the actual effect varies among individuals. Some are likely to experience mild or moderate effects, while some experience intensive and prolonged effects. There is another category of users, who do not experience any effects whatsoever.

Various factors are responsible for the undesirable outcomes of medications. For instance, the age of the individual, the gender, the health condition, other pre-existing conditions, and the type of condition that is being treated with the medication. It is necessary to note that the following is a compilation of commonly reported undesirable effects, and is not exhaustive or complete. It is intended to offer broad reference of the types of effects reported and documented.

Effects that are not frequently occurring in nature

Patients may experience certain effects that are not frequently occurring in nature, and this is generally experienced only by a smaller number of users. Urine may have traces of blood, while some may experience a reduction in the frequency of urination or the volume of urine. Many are known to break out into a cold sweat, while some have reported a faint feeling. The patient may experience abnormal confusion, apart from some difficulty in breathing, while some are known to experience a change in heartbeat rhythm. Many patients are known to experience a dizzy sensation or a light headed feeling when rising suddenly from a resting position. Abnormal or unusual increase in thirst, and a sudden loss of appetite are other dietary related effects that may be experienced.

Other effects include possible pain in the lower back, or the side, and a tingling sensation in the limbs and lips. Patients may also experience a numbing sensation on the limbs and the lips. Unusual or abnormal swelling in the face, and in the limbs are other possibilities. In addition to the above, the patient is also likely to feel tired or weak, without any attributable reason. This may also be experienced as overall fatigue and weakness in the legs. A contrasting effect to the loss of appetite and decreased thirst is sudden weight gain.

Effects that are known to occur rarely among patients

These effects are not frequently occurring and are actually rare in occurrence, generally experienced only by a relatively smaller number of patients. The patient may experience some kind of chillness without any specific reason. There is also the possibility of fever, and a hoarse voice that may accompany a sore throat. Other effects of the rare category include swelling that may be experienced in the limb extremities and the mouth. The patient may have some difficulty when swallowing and this is often accompanied by some kind of difficulty when breathing.

Certain side effects are not critical or serious in nature and will usually resolve naturally without the need for any treatment. However, certain undesirable effects may be serious in nature, or may turn serious in nature, and will require urgent medical attention or intervention. For instance, any difficulty in breathing, or a sudden change in heart beat rate, or the outbreak of any allergic reactions are all conditions that warrant urgent attention. Many patients are known to disregard the possible outcomes of an allergic reaction. It is necessary to be fully aware of the possibilities and take suitable remedial or preventive actions.

Drug interactions

All medications come with the possibility of drug interactions, and this includes other prescription drugs, OTC formulations, herbal remedies, supplements and alternative therapies. The effect could be a reduction in the efficacy of either of the medications, or could trigger more than desired outcomes of one medication. It could also result in amplified or aggravated side effects of either of the medications, as a result of the conflicting mechanism of action or the properties of the medication. Patients on medications to reduce blood pressure levels are to specifically inform the treating specialist. Certain painkillers are known to interact with valsartan, and this includes diclofenac, ibuprofen and similar drugs.

Patients on a dosage of more than 3 grams of aspirin daily are also likely to experience the effects of drug interactions. It is necessary to stay off potassium supplements and salt substitutes to avoid a spike in potassium levels. Patients on heparin or medications that are prescribed to prevent blood clots may also experience interactions. Similarly, diuretics are also known to cause undesirable outcomes when combined with valsartan. Other medications that cause interactions include drugs prescribed for heart failure, such as spironolactone and lithium, prescribed for treating mental health conditions.

Suitability of Valsartan for categories of patients

The medication can be taken by individuals above the age of 18, and is also considered as safe for patients aged 6 and above, diagnosed with hypertension. The medication is also usually prescribed for patients who have experienced some side effects from other antihypertensive medications. Valsartan is considered as unsuitable for patients with a history of allergic reactions to valsartan or active ingredients. Patients with existing, severe heart, kidney or liver ailments are also to seek medical advice before taking the medication, and in certain instances, may not be suitable patients with the above conditions. Individuals who have had a kidney transplant in the recent past are also considered as unsuitable to take the medication. Other conditions that are considered as unsuitable include dietary restrictions such as a low salt diet, apart from patients with low blood pressure levels.

Important information about Valsartan

Patients who experience severe diarrhea, or persistent vomiting are to stop the medication and continue Valsartan only after the condition is resolved. It is not to be taken by pregnant women, and women who are planning a pregnancy are to seek medical advice and take suitable alternative medications. It is also necessary to be aware of possible contraindications or interactions, and avoid salt substitutes that contain potassium, which may result in a sudden spike in potassium levels in the blood.

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