What Are the Most Common Calcium Channel Blocker Side Effects?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Calcium channel blocker side effects that are common include fluid retention or swelling, dizziness, and drowsiness. Some people who take these medications develop rashes, or experience headaches. This class of drugs can also cause stomach upset, which may principally manifest as constipation. In certain patients, low blood pressure, also called hypotension, may be a side effect. Medicines in this group share some common drug interactions, too.

Drowsiness is a common side effect of calcium channel blocker.
Drowsiness is a common side effect of calcium channel blocker.

Signs of fluid retention include edema — swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet. Sometimes the hands or wrists can be swollen, too. As one of the calcium channel blocker side effects, edema is often benign. On the other hand, many people take this medication along with other heart medicines, and fluid retention can be a sign of congestive heart failure. It’s important to mention this symptom to a physician.

Headaches and dizziness are two common side effects that patients report while taking calcium channel blockers.
Headaches and dizziness are two common side effects that patients report while taking calcium channel blockers.

Dizziness and drowsiness are calcium channel blocker side effects with multiple implications. First, patients should understand how their body reacts to these medications before they attempt to drive. Additionally, signs of dizziness ought to be carefully watched as they could cause falls or injury. Carefully getting up from seated or lying down positions may help minimize this effect. Patients should also avoid quick turns of the head.

Some individuals experience calcium channel blocker side effects in the form of a rash. Since these drugs may cause an allergic reaction that results in hives, a slight rash should be differentiated from a profuse rash. Other signs of dangerous allergy are difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, lips, and tongue. Even if this symptom seems benign and clearly isn’t a severe allergy, patients are advised to discuss it with their doctors.

Headaches are one of the calcium channel blocker side effects that may be more intermittent. Some patients benefit from use of an approved pain reliever, but this type of relief isn’t effective for everyone. If headaches are frequent, another drug may be more appropriate.

It’s not unusual for hypertension medications to cause low blood pressure. This may exacerbate feelings of dizziness, especially of the type that is felt with positional changes. Careful monitoring can avoid this condition. Alternately, if it occurs, reducing the dose may normalize blood pressure.

Constipation can accompany use of these drugs. Patients may reduce this symptom by eating a high fiber diet and drinking plenty of liquids. Drinking water can also be useful in diminishing water retention. Some patients benefit from using a daily fiber supplement. Additionally, walking may assist in alleviating calcium channel blocker side effects that affect the bowels.

Patients are also advised to be aware of other drugs that interact with calcium channel blockers. These include cholesterol-lowering medications like atorvastatin, simvastatin, and lorvastatin. Alternately, carbamazepine, which is used to treat bipolar and seizure disorders, may create problems. Moreover, drinking grapefruit juice often raises the blood levels of these drugs and should be avoided.

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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