What Are Peripheral Vasodilators?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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Peripheral vasodilators are medications that are often prescribed to treat high blood pressure and related conditions. They work by relaxing the blood vessels in order to widen them so that blood can circulate more readily. A doctor may also prescribe peripheral vasodilators to patients who are suffering from heart failure, heart attack, or cerebral vascular insufficiency, which refers to a decrease of blood going to the brain. These drugs may also help treat Raynaud's phenomenon, spasms of the urinary tract and intestines, and arteriosclerosis, which refers to hardening of the arteries. Some examples of these medications include cyclandelate, papaverine, and isoxsuprine.

Patients using peripheral vasodilators should follow all dosage instructions carefully. The dosing schedule will vary, depending on the patient's individual needs and which drug is prescribed. Papaverine is typically taken five times per day, but the extended-release tablets are usually prescribed two to three times per day. Those taking isoxsuprine will usually take a dose three to four times per day. Patients should take each dose with a full glass of water.

While undergoing treatment for circulatory problems with peripheral vasodilators, patients should be aware of the possible side effects. Serious side effects require emergency care, such as swelling of the facial region, problems breathing, or closing of the throat. Patients who overdose on the drug may experience poor coordination, headache, and drowsiness. The patient may also fall into a coma or display blue-colored skin or lips.


Less serious side effects will vary, depending on the specific drug, but they can include dizziness, weakness, and an irregular heartbeat. Nausea, vomiting, and constipation may also occur. Some patients have reported chest pain, constipation, and decreased appetite. Diarrhea, sweating, and flushing may also occur. If these side effects become severe, patients should discuss them with a physician.

Certain precautions should be followed while undergoing treatment with peripheral vasodilators. The doctor may request that the patient undergo periodic blood tests to check for possible adverse reactions. Patients should use alcohol in moderation only, because consuming alcoholic beverages can increase the risk of certain side effects. Those who experience dizziness or weakness should rise slowly from a seated or prone position.

Before using peripheral vasodilators, patients should disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss possible risks with their doctors. These drugs may be contraindicated for use by those with Parkinson's disease, glaucoma, or heart disease. Other medicines that treat high blood pressure or heart conditions may interact with these drugs.


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