Why Do High Blood Pressure Pills Cause a Dry Mouth?

Xerostomia-Linked Medications

The loss of saliva, commonly called dry-mouth, is a common complaint of individuals taking a variety of medications used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) or heart disease. Xerostomia, as this condition is medically referred to, is a side effect of numerous drugs which are commonly prescribed for such conditions.

Saliva is created by a group of glands located in and around your mouth and throat. The function of these glands may be affected by various drugs commonly proscribed for heart patients. Among the drugs known to cause this side effect are alpha blockers, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and diuretics.

Alpha blockers can include: Doxazosin (Cardura), Prazosin (Minipress),Terazosin (Hytrin),Tamsulosin (Flomax) and Alfuzosin (Uroxatral).

Commonly proscribed beta blockers are: Acebutolol (Sectral),Atenolol (Tenormin),Bisoprolol (Zebeta), Carvedilol (Coreg), Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), Nadolol (Corgard), Nebivolol (Bystolic) and Propranolol (Inderal LA) .

Calcium channel blockers commonly used are: Amlodipine (Norvasc), Diltiazem (Cardizem LA, Dilacor XR, Tiazac), Felodipine (Plendil), Isradipine (DynaCirc CR), Nicardipine (Cardene, Cardene SR), Nifedipine (Procardia, Procardia XL, Adalat CC), Nisoldipine (Sular), and Verapamil (Calan Verelan, Covera-HS).

Diuretics can include combinations of: Chlorothiazide (Diuril), Hydrochlorothiazide,Metolazone (Zaroxolyn),Bumetanide (Bumex),Ethacrynic acid (Edecrin), Furosemide (Lasix), Torsemide (Demadex), Amiloride, Triamterene (Dyrenium), Eplerenone (Inspra) and Spironolactone (Aldactone).

Diuretics and Xerostomia

Of the drug types listed above, the class known as diuretics is the most commonly linked to xerostomia. The mechanism by which diuretics reduce saliva production is not well understood, but it is generally believed to be one of three causes.

Diuretics are drugs which cause the kidneys to reduce the amount of sodium (salt) in the body, which causes the body to reduce the amount of water in your blood. This loss of blood plasma volume is thought to cause a drop in the output of the salivary glands, thus causing xerostomia.

By reducing the volume of fluid in the bloodstream, diuretics reduce both blood pressure and cardiac output. This reduction is cardiac output is believed to cause a corresponding reduction in the activity of the salivary glands, reducing salivary production.

Finally, diuretics will change the concentrations of cytosolic calcium, sodium and hydrogen in smooth-cell muscles. This is believed to lower the output of the salivary glands, again causing dry-mouth syndrome.

Other Drugs and Xerostomia

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There is far less indication of alpha, beta and calcium channel blockers causing xerostomia, although it is certainly possible. The mechanisms are again not well understood, but are likely to be similar to those described above for diuretics.

Effects of Xerostomia

Xerostomia can affect a person's ability to swallow, talk, and taste food. Saliva also performs a role in reducing tooth and gum problems, and a lack of saliva can result in increased rates of tooth decay and gum disease. Consult with your doctor or dentist for treatments and preventative care.