Calcium channel blockers, CCB

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) or calcium antagonists are used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), angina (chest pain due to narrowings, blockages or spasms of coronary arteries), migraine (extremely painful headache) and Raynaud’s disease (discoloration of the fingers and toes due to narrowing of blood vessels). Apart from the effect on relaxation of arteries leading to reduction in blood pressure, some calcium channel blockers also slow down the heart rate, reduce the force of heart contraction and control an irregularly beating heart (arrhythmia).

Amlodipine, felodipine, lacidipine and lercanidipine are examples of CCBs acting purely on blood pressure whereas verapamil and diltiazem are agents also influencing heart rate and contractility. A common side effect of calcium channel blockers is ankle swelling (particularly with amlodipine) and constipation (verapamil). You may also experience headache, drowsiness, rash and facial flushing while using CCBs.

Avoid using calcium channel blockers with grapefruit juice or alcohol as they reduce the excretion of CCBs from the body and thus may precipitate the side effects of these agents.