Exploring the Uses and Effects of Alpha Blockers

Alpha-blockers are medicines to manage and treat hypertension (high blood pressure). These medications help to lower blood pressure and are also used to ease symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate. Alpha-blockers, also called alpha-adrenergic blockers, work by preventing a hormone called norepinephrine from tightening the muscles in the walls of arteries and veins. This causes blood vessels to remain open and relaxed, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.

Alpha-blockers drugs are also used to relax muscles in the urinary tract and may make the stone pass into the bladder quickly. However, unwanted side effects may be experienced by people using alpha-blockers for kidney stones.

Alpha-blockers fall into three categories:

  1. Nonselective alpha-blockers (alpha 1 and alpha 2) include phenoxybenzamine and phentolamine. Both drugs have FDA approval for use in patients with pheochromocytoma (a type of tumor). Both are used during an operation to manage hypertensive crises during tumour removal. In comparison, phentolamine is occasionally used to treat cocaine-induced cardiovascular complications. However, it is not the first-line agent for this condition. 
  2. Selective Alpha-1 blockers: These medicines include doxazosin, alfuzosin, prazosin, tamsulosin, and alfuzosin. FDA approved these drugs to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia. These alpha-blocker drugs may also be used to treat essential hypertension. However, they are not typically first-line treatments for the management of hypertension
  3. Selective Alpha-2 blockers: The alpha 2 antagonist includes the medicines dioxin and yohimbine. Yohimbine is used in treating male sexual dysfunction, although the drug’s effectiveness has not been established and is not currently approved by the FDA.

Person examining applications and impacts of Alpha Blockers.

Mode of action of Alpha-blockers

Alpha-blockers block the alpha receptors, which are present on cells in specific areas or organs in your body. Those receptors signal cells when to squeeze, tighten or constrict. By blocking the action of those receptors, those cells stay relaxed. As many of those cells line your blood vessels, keeping them relaxed lowers your blood pressure.  

Side effects  

When you start taking alpha-antagonist drugs, you might develop low blood pressure or dizziness, making you faint when standing in a sitting or lying position. This is why the first dose is often taken at bedtime. Other alpha-blockers side effects include headache, weakness, dizziness, and a pounding heartbeat.

Before you take alpha antagonist drugs, inform your doctor of all the medications, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or medications for erection disorders. Alpha-blockers medications can increase or decrease the effects of other medicines you take. These medications are also effective at improving total cholesterol. However, studies have found that long-term usage of certain alpha-blockers can increase the risk of heart failure.


Alpha-blockers are contraindicated in individuals with hypersensitivity to alpha blockers or any of the components’ formulations. Caution should be taken when using alpha-blockers for hypertension in elderly patients or if previous cataract surgery. These drugs can complicate cataract surgery leading to intraoperative floppy iris syndrome. Non-selective alpha-blocker medications have additional contraindications.

These medicines should exercise caution if the patient suffers from renal insufficiency, coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, or respiratory infection. The Alpha-blocker medications are not suitable for long-term usage. Non-selective alpha-blockers, including phentolamine and phenoxybenzamine, should not be taken when breastfeeding.

Due to the risk of Hypotentiosn (low blood pressure), monitoring blood pressure and heart rate when administered during the operation is necessary to remove the tumour. Preventing side effects of medicines in the elderly requires special care and communication between health care providers. 

Do alpha-blocker drugs interact with other medicines?

Some alpha-antagonist drugs may also interact with citrus juices, alcohol, or other foods. Because these medications directly impact your circulatory system and, therefore, your entire body, these can also interact with many other drugs. Because the effects may vary from one person to another, your healthcare specialist is the best source of information on how alpha 2 antagonists are most likely to affect you. 

How long you can take alpha blockers?

You can take alpha-blocker medications depending on the medicine and condition being treated. Non-selective alpha-blockers are discovered for short-term use. It is common to take an alpha medicine indefinitely for conditions like enlarged prostate and hypertension. Your doctor will suggest options to you and decide what’s best for you and how long you need to follow the course of treatment. 

The bottom line

Alpha-adrenergic blockers are prescription medicines for controlling high blood pressure to help people with chronic nightmares sleep. While they are extremely effective in some cases but aren’t always the best choice. If your doctor recommends taking an alpha blocker, speak to them about your concerns.

Also Read: Preventing eye infection: Tips for proper eye care

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