Review Articles


, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 447-458

First online:

Effects of Antihypertensive Drugs on Endocrine Function

  • Eric P. BrassAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine and Pharmacology, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

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Pharmacological treatment of hypertension can cause clinically significant alterations in endocrine function through effects on glucose homeostasis, thyroid and parathyroid hormones, adrenal steroid metabolism and reproductive/pituitary physiology. Long term use of thiazide diuretics causes deterioration in glucose tolerance, probably secondary to potassium depletion. Hypoglycaemic complications of β-blockers (mainly the non-selective compounds) can be dramatic, especially in type I diabetics. Clonidine, diazoxide and calcium antagonists have all been associated with deterioration in glucose tolerance and their long term use should be avoided in type II diabetics if possible.

Propranolol lowers T3 levels by decreasing the conversion of T4 to T3. Prazosin causes elevations in T4 and thyroid-stimulating hormone, while sodium nitroprusside use may result in hypothyroidism. Numerous agents are associated with sexual dysfunction, including methyldopa, reserpine, clonidine and spironolactone. Thiazide diuretics may cause hypercalcaemia, particularly in patients with hyperparathyroidism, by decreasing urinary calcium as well as directly influencing bone and gut calcium handling. Conversely, propranolol may decrease circulating parathyroid hormone levels and correct the hypercalcaemia seen in hyperparathyroidism.

Awareness of drug-induced changes in endocrine function will facilitate the rational management of the hypertensive patient.