The number of blood pressure lowering medicines available is staggering and, as many of the presently available medications are frequently used in combination for treatment, choosing the right medication or combination of medicines presents your physician with something of a headache.
Here however is an overview of the different groups of blood pressure lowering medicines presently in everyday use.
Diuretics The first line of attack are diuretics which are simply designed to rid the body of excess fluid and, most importantly in terms of high blood pressure, to reduce salt levels.
Frequently used diuretics include Midamor, Esidrix, Hygroton, Hydrodiuril, Lasix, Diuril, Lozol, Bumex and Aldactone.
A number of diuretic reduce potassium levels in the body and may lead to weakness, tiredness and leg cramps.
This can normally be effectively countered by eating foods which contain potassium or by taking potassium supplements in either tablet or liquid form.
Diuretics can also result in increased blood sugar levels and a change of diet or drug, oral diabetic medication or insulin might be needed in the case of diabetics.
ACE Inhibitors Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors act to enlarge the blood vessels and therefore reduce the resistance to blood flow and pressure within these vessels.
Consequently the heart does not need to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body.
Frequently used ACE inhibitors include Lotensin, Monopril, Capoten, Univasc, Mavik, Accupril, Prinivil, Altace, Aceon, Vasotec and Zestril.
ACE inhibitors can cause a skin rash, a chronic hacking cough and in very rare cases kidney damage.
AT-2 Receptor Antagonists Angiotensin-2 (AT-2) receptor antagonists work in a similar manner to ACE inhibitors although they have the benefit for many people of not producing the hacking cough so often seen with taking ACE inhibitors.
Frequently used AT-2 receptor antagonists include Atacand, Micardis, Cozaar, Avapro and Teveten.
There are normally very few side effects experienced with AT-2 receptor antagonists although in some people they may produce occasional dizziness.
Beta Blockers Beta blockers act to reduce blood pressure by decreasing both the heart rate and output.
Frequently used beta blockers include Sectral, Kerlone, Inderal, Cartrol, Betapace, Tenormin, Corgard, Zebeta, Toprol XL, Blocadren, Lopressor and Ziac.
A number of beta blockers may cause insomnia, depression, the symptoms of asthma, tiredness, cold hands and feet and in very rare cases can result in impotence.
Calcium Channel Blockers Calcium channel blockers lower blood pressure by interrupting the flow of calcium into both the heart and blood vessels.
Calcium channel blockers include what is generally agreed to be the most popular blood pressure medication in the world - Norvasc.
Other common calcium blockers include Lotrel, Tiazac, Cardizem, Vascor, Adalat, Nimotop, Isoptin, Sular, Calan, Procardia, Plendil and Verelan.
The side effects differ considerably from one calcium blocker to the next but some frequently seen side effects include headache, palpitations, dizziness, constipation and swollen ankles.
As can be seen there is a very large number of medications available for reducing blood pressure and when you consider that these are frequently used together by combining for example ACE inhibitors and calcium blockers, ACE inhibitors and diuretics or AT-2 receptor antagonists and diuretics then the range of possible treatments is almost too high to count.
Of course on the one hand this is good news because it means that it is possible to tailor treatment to the precise needs of each patient.
However, on the other hand it also makes selecting the best treatment somewhat difficult.