It relaxes and widens your blood vessels. This lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.
Some people take valsartan in combination with other medicines:
- with amlodipine (brand name Exforge) to treat high blood pressure
- with hydrochlorothiazide (brand name Co-Diovan) to treat high blood pressure
- with sacubitril (brand name Entresto) to treat a type of long-term heart failure
Valsartan is only available on prescription. It comes as tablets, capsules and as a liquid that you swallow.
Who can take valsartan
Most adults aged 18 and over can take valsartan.
Children aged 6 years and over can take valsartan, but only to treat high blood pressure.
Your doctor may prescribe valsartan if you've tried taking blood pressure-lowering medicines called ACE inhibitors, such as ramipril and lisinopril, but had to stop taking them because of side effects such as a dry, irritating cough.
Valsartan is not suitable for some people. To make sure it's safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to valsartan or other medicine
- have heart, liver or kidney problems
- have diabetes
- have recently had a kidney transplant
- have diarrhoea or vomiting (or have recently had this)
- are on a low-salt diet
- have low blood pressure (hypotension)
- are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you are breastfeeding
Dosage and strength
The dose of valsartan you take depends on why you need the medicine. Take it as your doctor tells you.
The usual dose for adults is:
- high blood pressure – 80mg to 320mg, taken once a day
- heart failure – 40mg to 160mg, taken twice a day
- after a recent heart attack – 20mg to 160mg, taken twice a day
The dose may be lower if you've recently lost body fluids (for example because you've been sick or have diarrhoea).
The dose for children depends on their weight. The usual dose for children is:
- 40mg to 80mg, taken once a day for children weighing 18kg to 34.9kg
- 80mg to 160mg, taken once a day for children weighing 35kg to 79.9kg
- 80mg to 320mg, taken once a day for children weighing 80kg and more
Changes to your dose
After a few weeks, your doctor will check your blood pressure and ask you if you're getting any side effects. You may also have blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working and the amount of potassium in your blood. Your doctor will then decide whether to change your dose of valsartan.
If valsartan does not bring your blood pressure down, your doctor may want to increase the dose. If your blood pressure gets too low or you get side effects, your doctor may want to lower your dose of valsartan.
How to take it
You will usually take valsartan once or twice a day.
If you take it once a day, your doctor may suggest that you take your first dose before bedtime, because it can make you feel dizzy. After the very first dose, you can take valsartan at any time, although it's best to take it at the same time every day.
You can take valsartan tablets, capsules and liquid with or without food.
Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water.
If you're taking valsartan as a liquid, it will come with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure out the right dose. If you do not have one, ask your pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not measure the right amount of medicine.
How long to take it for
Usually, treatment with valsartan is long term, even for the rest of your life.
If you stop taking valsartan, your blood pressure could rise, and this can increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
If you're bothered by any side effects, your doctor may be able to prescribe you a different blood pressure-lowering medicine.
Take valsartan even if you feel well, as you will still be getting the benefits of the medicine.
If you get very bad diarrhoea or vomiting for any reason, contact your doctor or a pharmacist. They'll be able to advise you about what to do.
They may recommend that you stop taking valsartan until you're better, and can eat and drink normally again.
If you forget to take it
If you miss a dose of valsartan, take it as soon as you remember, unless it's almost time for your next dose. In this case, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time.
Do not take 2 doses to make up for a forgotten one.
If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
If you take too much
An overdose of valsartan can cause low blood pressure. This can make you feel dizzy, sleepy and give you a pounding heartbeat (palpitations).
The amount of valsartan that can lead to an overdose varies from person to person.
- you take more than your prescribed dose of valsartan
If you need to go to A&E, do not drive yourself. Get someone else to drive you or call for an ambulance.
Take the valsartan packet or leaflet inside and any remaining medicine with you.
Common side effects
These common side effects of valsartan happen in more than 1 in 100 people. There are things you can do to help cope with them:
If this advice does not help and any of these side effects continue, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
It happens rarely, but some people have serious side effects after taking valsartan.
Contact 111 or call a doctor straight away if:
- the whites of your eyes turn yellow, or your skin turns yellow, although this may be less obvious on brown or black skin – this can be a sign of liver problems
- you bruise more easily than usual, get reddish-purple spots on the skin, bleed for longer from cuts to the skin, or bleed from your gums or nose – this can be a sign of thrombocytopaenia (low platelet count)
- you feel weak, have an irregular heartbeat, pins and needles and muscle cramps – these can be signs of changes in the potassium levels in your blood
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to valsartan.
Taking valsartan for a long time can sometimes cause your kidneys not to work as well as they should. Your doctor will check how well your kidneys are working with regular blood tests.
Other side effects
These are not all the side effects of valsartan. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.
Valsartan and pregnancy
Valsartan is not recommended in pregnancy. This is because it can reduce the level of fluid around your baby, particularly if you take it in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. It can also cause long-term damage to your baby's kidneys and lungs, and other problems.
If you are already pregnant, stop taking valsartan and talk to your doctor straight away. They will usually be able to prescribe a different medicine that's safer to take in pregnancy. Valsartan should always be stopped by the time you're 12 weeks pregnant.
It's important to use contraception if you're taking valsartan and carefully plan any pregnancy with your doctor or specialist. They will review your medical condition and medicine before you get pregnant.
Most women stop taking valsartan before getting pregnant, but you may be able to keep taking it until you have a positive pregnancy test and then stop. Your doctor will discuss what's best for you, based on your medical condition and the risks and benefits of valsartan.
It might be OK to take valsartan while breastfeeding, but talk to your doctor or pharmacist first. It is best not to take valsartan if your baby was born prematurely, but your doctor will help you decide.
It is not yet known how much valsartan gets into breast milk. There is a very small risk that it could also lower your baby's blood pressure. Until we know more about valsartan in breastfeeding, your doctor may recommend a different medicine for you to take.
Talk to your health visitor, midwife, pharmacist or doctor if:
- your baby is not feeding as well as usual
- your baby seems unusually sleepy
- your baby looks much paler than normal
- you have any other concerns about your baby
Valsartan and fertility
There's no clear evidence to suggest that taking valsartan reduces fertility in either men or women.
However, if you're trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor first as this medicine is not recommended in pregnancy.
Cautions with other medicines
Some medicines can affect the way valsartan works.
Tell your doctor if you're taking:
- other medicines to help lower your blood pressure, including aliskiren, enalapril, captopril, lisinopril or ramipril
- painkillers such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, celecoxib or etoricoxib
- aspirin (if you are taking more than 3g a day)
- potassium supplements or salt substitutes that contain potassium
- heparin – a medicine that helps prevent blood clots,
- diuretics (medicines which make you pee more)
- lithium, a medicine for mental health problems
- spironolactone, a medicine to treat heart failure
There's not enough information to say that herbal remedies and supplements are safe to take with valsartan. They're not tested in the same way as pharmacy and prescription medicines. They're generally not tested for the effect they have on other medicines.
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