What is Enalapril?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Enalapril or Vasotec® is a medication that is principally used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) or congestive heart failure. It is one of several medicines that are called ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors, which describes the drug’s action. An ACE inhibitor prevents a chemical in the body called angiotensin I from becoming angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is associated with narrowing of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), which can elevate blood pressure levels. Enalapril also helps to reduce fluid and salt levels in the body which can reduce high blood pressure and symptoms associated with heart failure like edema (water retention).

Enalapril is an ACE-inhibitor that helps lower blood pressure.
Enalapril is an ACE-inhibitor that helps lower blood pressure.

There are several different ACE inhibitors available by prescription, and they’re not always the first choice to treat high blood pressure. Doctors might chose enalapril for their patients after reviewing their medical history and evaluating any other medicines they take. Some people are not good candidates for this medicine. These could include pregnant women or those who plan to become pregnant because the drug can cause birth defects. Certain medicines like diuretics, lithium, potassium supplements, and anticoagulants might mean adjusting the dosage of Vasotec® or choosing other medicines. Enalapril also needs to be prescribed carefully when combined with many other medications for heart ailments or diabetes, but it isn’t uncommon for heart medicines and this ACE inhibitor to be used together; dosage may merely need adjustment.

Enalapril is not usually prescribed for pregnant women.
Enalapril is not usually prescribed for pregnant women.

One of the greatest concerns with enalapril is that it can cause problems if a person becomes dehydrated. The drug poses a problem because of the way it reduces salt levels in the body. This can quickly lead to electrolyte imbalance if people don’t stay adequately hydrated, or if they become dehydrated from illnesses like the stomach flu. Dehydration can lead to kidney problems or extremely low blood pressure, so any condition that causes rapid water loss needs vigilance. If people cannot get appropriate fluids during a stomach bug or during instances of heavy sweating from heat or exertion, they should get medical care and might require intravenous fluids. Provided people keep fluid intake adequate, this is seldom a severe issue.

A person with untreated hypertension could suffer from cardiovascular disease or kidney damage later in life.
A person with untreated hypertension could suffer from cardiovascular disease or kidney damage later in life.

Some of the common side effects of enalapril are not particularly dangerous, though they can be annoying. Cough is most often reported, but people also report headaches, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, dry mouth, stomach upset, rash, or appetite loss. If these side effects continue, people should speak to their physicians, as it is possible another ACE inhibitor or a different type of blood pressure medicine is more appropriate.

Also marketed as Vasotec®, enalapril can cause birth defects or fetal death if taken during pregnancy.
Also marketed as Vasotec®, enalapril can cause birth defects or fetal death if taken during pregnancy.

Those taking enalapril do need to be on the alert for more serious adverse effects. Patients using this medicine should get medical attention immediately if they faint, have little or no urination, or experience pain in the chest or sensation of rapid heartbeat. Though rare, other adverse effects like easy bruising, pale skin, development of flu symptoms, or strong fluid retention should all be brought to the attention of a doctor right away.

Hypertension is caused by large amounts of blood pumping heavily against the arteries, which may begin to narrow and weaken.
Hypertension is caused by large amounts of blood pumping heavily against the arteries, which may begin to narrow and weaken.
Coughing is the most common side effect of enalapril.
Coughing is the most common side effect of enalapril.
Due to potential problems such as dehydration, those taking Enalaprin should be careful to maintain proper fluid intake.
Due to potential problems such as dehydration, those taking Enalaprin should be careful to maintain proper fluid intake.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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