The drugs discussed in this section produce a direct relaxation of vascular smooth muscle and thereby their actions result in vasodilation. This effect is called direct because it does not depend on the innervation of vascular smooth muscle and is not mediated by receptors, such as adrenoceptors, cholinoreceptors, or receptors for histamine, that are acted on by classical transmitters and mediators.
The vasodilators decrease total peripheral resistance and thus correct the hemodynamic abnormality that is responsible for the elevated blood pressure in primary hypertension. In addition, because they act directly on vascular smooth muscle, the vasodilators are effective in lowering blood pressure, regardless of the etiology of the hypertension. Unlike many other antihypertensive agents, the vasodilators do not inhibit the activity of the sympathetic nervous system; therefore, orthostatic hypotension and impotence are not problems. Additionally, most vasodilators relax arterial smooth muscle to a greater extent than venous smooth muscle, thereby further minimizing postural hypotension.
Although vasodilators would appear to be ideal drugs for the treatment of hypertension, their effectiveness, particularly when they are used chronically, is severely limited by neuroendocrine and autonomic reflexes that tend to counteract the fall in blood pressure. How these reflexes compromise the fall in blood pressure produced by the vasodilators is shown in Fig. 20.1. The diagram does not show all of the possible interrelationships but rather is meant to draw attention to the most prominent reflex changes. These reflexes include an augmentation of sympathetic nervous activity that leads
Vasodilators t Sympathetic nervous activity
Relax vascular smooth muscle
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Your heart pumps blood throughout your body using a network of tubing called arteries and capillaries which return the blood back to your heart via your veins. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart beats.Learn more...