illustration of a head splitting in two with green waves of pain radiating out

Amlodipine is a commonly prescribed blood pressure medicine. At last count, 87 million prescriptions were dispensed annually in the U.S (Quintiles IMS, May, 2017, now IQVIA Institute). It is referred to as a calcium channel blocker (CCB) or a calcium antagonist. Drugs in this class work by reducing calcium ion penetration into cells in coronary arteries and the smooth muscle that lines peripheral arteries in the body (Journal of Clinical Hypertension, Sept. 1986). This leads to vascular dilation and lower blood pressure. Other CCBs include diltiazem, nifedipine and verapamil. Doctors prescribe such drugs for hypertension, angina associated with heart disease, certain irregular heart rhythms and Raynaud’s disease, which leads to very cold and painful fingers and toes. Amlodipine and dizziness often go hand in hand, as this reader discovered:

Amlodipine and Dizziness–An Overwhelming Side Effect:

Q. Amlodipine lowered my blood pressure beautifully but it made me so dizzy and lightheaded that my doctor had to take me off it. Since then, we have been unable to find an effective alternative.

Is there a calcium channel blocker that does not cause these side effects?

A. Most calcium channel blockers can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, which are common side effects of many blood pressure medicines. They are not all identical, however.

Amlodipine Side Effects:

Fluid accumulation in feet: This is a common complication of amlodipine (Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, June, 2017). People frequently tell us that their feet may swell so much that they have to increase their shoe size. This can lead to a cascade of events as this reader relates:

Greg W. shared this experience:

“I’ve been on amlodipine and it caused swelling. Then the doc put me on a diuretic to get rid of the swelling. Then the diuretic flushed out my potassium so much I got heart arrhythmias so bad I had to go to the emergency room and then take nitro and do stress echoes and stay in the hospital. Then the doc put me on potassium supplements to take care of the low potassium. Enough already.”

Sharon developed swollen feet and ankles:

“A couple years ago my doctor also prescribed amlodipine for high blood pressure. It worked wonders for the blood pressure issue but my feet and ankles also were terrible swollen – two to three times their normal size. I am now on it again but because I am now also a kidney patient I am on Lasix [furosemide] and have had no problem with feet and legs swelling.”

Other common side effects include flushing and headache (Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, June, 2017).  Dizziness is also a frequently reported reaction.

Other side effects of amlodipine include fatigue, digestive upset and skin reactions. One possible adverse reaction that we fear cardiologists don’t know what to do about is heart failure. A very impressive study called ALLHAT reported an association between amlodipine use and heart failure. This was noted in an extended follow-up article published in the American Journal of Cardiology (Jan. 1, 2016).

Diltiazem Side Effects:

This CCB can also cause swollen feet and ankles. Headache and digestive upset are also reported. And yes, dizziness is considered a relatively common complication of diltiazem. Skin rash can occur, along with low blood pressure upon standing (orthostatic hypotension). In some cases, diltiazem may trigger irregular heart rhythms and other heart problems such as heart failure. Any skin reaction requires immediate medical attention, as these can sometimes be extremely serious.

Verapamil Side Effects:

The complaint we hear most often with verapamil is constipation. Dizziness comes next. Not surprisingly, people also report digestive upset, headache, fatigue and fluid retention. Do you begin to see a pattern developing? Calcium channel blockers do seem to have edema, dizziness and fatigue in common.

Dizziness is not a benign complication. If amlodipine and dizziness go together, it could lead to a fall. Anyone, especially an older person, who falls could break a hip. This can lead to disability or death. That is why this side effect needs to be taken seriously. Our reader above knew she could not tolerate amlodipine and dizziness. Her doctor agreed!

Other Options:

We are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment so that you and your doctor can consider some other options. ACE inhibitors or ARBs are different categories of medications that might be less likely to make you dizzy.

Anyone who would like a copy of this guide, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope:

  • Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. B-67
  • P. O. Box 52027
  • Durham, NC 27717-2027.

It can also be downloaded for $2 from this website.

Share your own amlodipine story below in the comment section.

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  1. Neil
    St. John's, NL Canada
    Reply

    I started out on Amlodipine about 6 months ago (5mg), and it worked wonders. However, after about 3 months and a check-up my blood pressure was still not on target so my Dr took me to 10 mg. After about 2-3 months I started feeling mild cases of dizziness which, of course, cause mild nausea. There is slight swelling my ankles as well and some upper body discomfort. It’s very unsettling and leaves me feeling quite uneasy with these side effects.

  2. Ward
    Kashima, Ibaraki, Japan
    Reply

    The Nephrologist may have been referring to Endothelin Receptor Antagonists (ERAs). You can read about them here: http://cvpharmacology.com/vasodilator/ETblockers

    I have been on Amlodipine for three months – 5mg daily initially, 2.5 for the last 2 months – but hope to get off of BP meds as my exercise and whole foods plant based diet continue to improve my condition. I have experienced some dizziness from Amlodipine, but find it works well so will continue to take it until no longer needed.

  3. Barbara
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I had some really deep pockets around some dental implants. My Periodontist asked my doctor to take me off Amlodipine and prescribe something else which he did. It took a couple of months but the pockets were greatly reduced.

  4. Joe
    Georgia
    Reply

    Having a spike in my blood pressure prompted me to call my cardiologist. He added 5mg of Amlodipine once per day in addition to Atenolol 25 mg and Losartan 100mg, which I was already taking. The results after 4 days did seem to have a some affect on my BP but dizziness, balance and excruciating headache resulted. My feet also began swelling after 4 days. I had to place a cold gel pack on my neck and head for 2-plus hours to help reduce the headache somewhat. I am concerned about the questionable side effects of this medication.

  5. Dorothy L
    SC
    Reply

    I have been on a CCB fir about 30 yrs. I have tried other BP meds, most with reactions that I could not live with. I have had no swelling, no dizziness. I am also on a B Blkr. I seem well controlled . I also took a statinnyrs ago that nearly crippled mr

  6. Mar
    Florida
    Reply

    Amlodipine lowered my labile BP significantly between 2013 and 2014. Sadly, it WASTED my muscle mass and reduced my weight at a rate of 1- 5 lbs weekly. ( Conversely, it increased my friends’ weights) While vacationing in 2014, I fainted and was hospitalized twice. After getting a plethora of tests from neurological to physical, and having doctors unable to diagnose, a call to the pharmacist and an Internet search pointed back to Amlodipine as the culprit.

    My PCP, at the time, reluctantly agreed with me. She stopped Amlodipine; ordered physical and nutritional therapies. I regained most of my muscle mass.

    Regrettably, though, none of the alternative BP medications have worked as well to date. One after another, because of serious side effects and allergic reactions, physicians stop the medications.

    What is, “NEURO CARDIOGENIC SYNCOPE”?

    Recently a Nephrologist told me of a new class of BP medication called ENDOTHELIAL BLOCKERS.
    What is the, “Skinny” on these?
    I thank you for your response.

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      Neurocardiogenic syncope means fainting due to a drop in blood pressure, possibly due to standing too long or in some cases to strong emotion. Other than the fact that you fall and could hurt yourself falling, it is not considered a serious problem. Here’s a link:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC506859/
      Sorry, we’re not familiar with endothelial blockers.

  7. Lawrence
    Baltimore, Md.
    Reply

    I have just been prescribed amlodipine (5mg) and understand it is a calcium channel blocker, however I have osteoporosis and wonder if the drug affects calcium absorption.

    I would appreciate an answer and didn’t think to ask my physician until after the appointment.

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      Amlodipine does not appear to affect calcium absorption. It does regulate calcium moving in and out of cells.

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      Amlodipine regulates the movement of calcium between cells, but it shouldn’t prevent calcium absorption into the body.

  8. Kate B.
    NC
    Reply

    I was prescribed Amlodipine to control my blood pressure, and it was effective for that purpose, but caused terrible swelling in my feet and ankles. When my doctor switched medications, the problem greatly diminished.

  9. June
    Reply

    I know that government agencies require you to warn us of the “deadly consequences,” of stopping prescriptions suddenly. The facts are that most of us are capable of tapering off drugs without any dire consequences. If it makes you feel better, tell your Doctor that you want to control your health through dietary adjustments, ask him to provide a list of healthy changes you can make and then wait until he or she does. Unfortunately, you will wait a long time. Very few M.D.s are skilled nutritionists.

  10. Charles H.
    Virginia
    Reply

    I was on amlodipine for years. I always complained about being dizzy. I have to drive a lot and climbing on roofs for my job!

    I have changed my diet and take better care of myself. So far I am doing very well. I am not taking any blood pressure meds and my blood pressure is 120/70 now. I was not that good on meds. I think prescription meds are killing us! We need to take better care of ourselves, stop eating bad foods, bad fast food restaurants

  11. Gwendolyn W.
    VA
    Reply

    Good info! I didn’t know My Medication, Amlodipine was what caused all the problems I was having. And still having. Got to talk to Doctor!

  12. Judy
    Austin
    Reply

    Tried 5 BP meds. Terrible side effects from all. I asked the Dr could I try dividing it up more, like 2.5 mg three times daily. Works beautifully! Have used successfully for 10 years. See if you can divide the amount up. It helps the body absorb the side effects.

  13. Jim
    denver
    Reply

    Magnesium, potassium, fish oil, exercise and taurine are a few of the many natural ways to lower the blood pressure by reducing calcium inside cells.

  14. Marilynn
    NE Illinois
    Reply

    I took Amlodipine for several years with no side effects.

    Then I started having trouble sleeping at night. I had trouble going to sleep, and when I did, I woke for bathroom breaks at least twice, and could never get back to sleep after them. I also suffered from a bad dry mouth.

    On my dentist’s recommendation, I stopped all prescriptions and supplements until it went away. Then started adding them back, one at a time, until the symptoms returned. The supplements were fine, slept well, no dry mouth. Then when amlodipine was added back, (5 mg tablet per day), the sleep problems and dry mouth returned.

    I stopped using it. Then on recommendation of my new Dr., started taking half daily. Bad news. Then took 1/4 daily, bad news. Now I take 1/4 3 times a week. It works, my BP is normal, but I sleep fitfully, due to a dry mouth. My Dr now says at my age (84), up to the 140’s is acceptable. I am in the 130-138 range with no amlodipine. (I take my BP at home regularly).

  15. Donna
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    I was on amlodipine for about 4 months. It worked wonderfully on my blood pressure, but I was noticing severe thigh muscle pain. It seemed to come on slowly. I do have RA, but It just did not seem right. I also would have, all of sudden, burning eyes. It would go away, but it was odd. And then I had a scaly itching rash on the inside of my eye lids. Just a small patch. After going off the amlodipine, I never had the burning eyes again, the eye rash is now gone, and the muscle pain has subsided considerably.

  16. Lynn
    CT
    Reply

    I’m have an allergic reaction to the heart drug Multaq – facial and neck redness, severe swelling of lips and face — any suggestions what can be done to treat it — perhaps topically? Dr tried taking me off temporarily and put on Prednisone but have gone into severe atrial fib and tachycardia; now am back on Multaq, and facial allergy symptoms resume. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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