Lisinopril, sold under the brand names Prinivil and Zestril, is an ACE inhibitor used to treat high blood pressure, treat heart failure, and improve survival after heart attack. According to the IMS Institute there were 102 million prescriptions for lisinopril in 2013, making it the third most prescribed drug in the U.S. Lisinopril has been linked to liver damage, liver failure and angioedema. Lisinopril side effects can be fatal.
Angioedema is a rare reaction to lisinopril, but it can be fatal. It is swelling usually below the surface of the skin around the eyes, mouth or throat, and sometimes in the intestines.
In cases where there is swelling of the tongue or throat the airway can be blocked. The only way to reopen the airway and save the victim is by intubation or tracheotomy. In some cases the swelling because so severe so quickly that the airway cannot be opened and the patient dies from lack of oxygen. Survivors of severe angioedema can suffer permanent brain injury from lack of oxygen.
Although most people who develop ACE inhibitor-induced angioedema experience the reaction shortly after they begin using the drug, some do not experience symptoms for months or years and there have been cases that occurred several weeks after stopping the medication.
Angioedema symptoms can also be mild and patients do not always make the connection between their symptoms and the medication. The symptoms typically resolve on their own within a couple of days, only to come back at irregular and unpredictable times.
Because angioedema can quickly progress to respiratory distress and become life-threatening, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms including:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the lips
- Swelling of the tongue
- Throat tightness
- Swelling around the eyes
- Abdominal cramping
Other Lisinopril Side Effects
Other potential side effects of taking lisinopril include:
- Liver damage
- Acute liver failure
- Elevated blood potassium (hyperkalemia)
- Renal impairment
- Kidney failure
- Low blood pressure
- Birth defects in babies of women who take lisinopril during pregnancy
Symptoms of liver damage or acute liver failure include:
- Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Abdominal pain
Acute liver failure can be fatal, and in some cases lisinopril users who have suffered liver damage have required liver transplant.