What Body Systems Are Affected by Pseudoephedrine?

Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant medication sold over the counter (such as in Sudafed). It is also found as a component in some prescription medications. Pseudoephedrine is available as a tablet, chewable tablet, controlled-release tablet, capsule, syrup, suspension and liquid and as drops. This drug is indicated for nasal congestion and congestion of the Eustachian tubes. Due to its presence in many over-the-counter products, caution is urged to avoid simultaneously ingesting two products containing pseudoephedrine.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Respiratory System

Pseudoephedrine narrows the blood vessels in the nose that are swollen during nasal congestion. This causes a decrease in the amount of fluid that is forced into the lining of the nasal passages and, as a result, less mucus is produced. These actions lead to less nasal stuffiness, and a similar action causes the sinuses to feel less congested as well. Due to this effect, you may notice that your throat or nose seem dry after taking this medicine. The 2010 Lippincott's Nursing Drug Guide states that pseudoephedrine can have the side effect of breathing difficulty.

Cardiovascular System

Pseudoephedrine inadvertently affects the cardiovascular system by causing the common side effects of irregular heart rhythm and high blood pressure. Less common cardiovascular side effects include fast heart rate, a sensation of the heart pounding in the chest, easy bruising and bleeding, and pain in the chest area. A serious potential side effect is low blood pressure with cardiovascular collapse. Cardiovascular effects happen more often when high doses of pseudoephedrine are ingested.

Nervous System

Pseudoephedrine can have many effects on the nervous system. Common side effects include dizziness, tremors, fear, restlessness, headache, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, drowsiness and tension. Less often, this drug causes seizures, altered mood, psychosis, excitability, sweating, hallucinations, slowed reflexes, weakness, change in mental ability, flushing, paleness, muscle spasms around the mouth, psychological problems, dizziness and numb or tingling skin. It can affect vision by creating blurry vision, tearing of the eyes, sensitivity to light and eye irritation.

Gastrointestinal System

The 2010 Lippincott's Nursing Drug Guide states that pseudephedrine commonly causes nausea and vomiting. It is also known to affect the gastrointestinal system by causing dry mouth, loss of appetite and stomach pain.

Urinary System

This drug can cause painful or difficult urination. You may also void less urine than usual and, if you are a man with benign prostatic hypertrophy, you may retain urine instead of being able to fully void.

Immune System

For some patients, pseudoephedrine triggers an allergic reaction. This can manifest as hives, rash, itching, chest tightness or swelling of the face, mouth, tongue or throat.