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Valsartan Side Effects

Common valsartan side effects include headache, nausea and diarrhea. Less common, serious side effects of valsartan may include allergic reactions, difficulty breathing and kidney problems. Some valsartan batches were recalled in 2018 because of contamination with NDMA, a possible carcinogen.

Last Modified: November 15, 2022
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What Are Common Side Effects of Valsartan?

People who take valsartan for high blood pressure or heart failure may develop common side effects that resemble symptoms of the flu, such as coughing, fatigue, nausea and joint pain.

Most side effects of valsartan are mild and brief, and most people don’t need to stop taking the drug to feel better.

Common valsartan side effects are:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • High blood potassium
  • Joint pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea

All of these side effects are also listed on valsartan’s drug label. If you’re concerned about any of them, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Does Valsartan Cause Weight Gain?

Studies have shown that weight gain is not a prevalent side effect of valsartan. Some people who take the medication experience a modest weight gain, but most people keep their normal body weight.

If you gain a significant amount of weight while taking valsartan, the change may stem from increased water retention caused by kidney problems. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice this symptom, especially if it is accompanied by swelling in your feet, ankles, hands or face.

No Proven Link to Hair Loss

No scientific studies link taking valsartan to hair loss, and it is not included on the drug’s label as a side effect. Some people who take the drug may experience hair loss, but this is likely not caused by the medication.

In rare cases, taking valsartan can lead to serious health conditions, including liver damage and serious allergic reactions.

Serious Valsartan Side Effects

The most serious valsartan side effects include allergic reactions, high potassium levels and kidney problems. Some people who have experienced these serious side effects from the drug have filed valsartan lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors.

Less common, serious side effects of Valsartan may include:
  • Acute liver injury
  • Allergic reactions, such as hives, trouble breathing or swelling of the tongue or throat
  • Blood in urine
  • Fetal toxicity
  • Hyperkalemia (high levels of potassium in the blood)
  • Impotence
  • Low blood pressure
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet or lips
  • Reduced kidney function

Some batches of medications containing valsartan were recalled in July 2018 because of the presence of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in them. NDMA is a chemical that is likely to cause cancer and liver damage in humans.

No medications containing valsartan that have been produced since July 2018 are known to be contaminated with NDMA. In addition, taking valsartan does not increase your risk of cancer.

If you take valsartan, discuss these potential side effects with your doctors. They can help you understand the risks involved in taking the drug and help you monitor yourself for these problems.

Valsartan and Kidney Problems

Some people taking valsartan may develop kidney problems because of the drug, which can also worsen existing kidney problems. Symptoms of kidney impairment include unexplained weight gain and swelling in your hands, face, ankles or feet.

Valsartan may also increase the levels of potassium in your blood. This is more likely to happen to people with heart failure or existing kidney problems. Let your doctors know if you have either condition before taking valsartan.

Allergic Reactions Associated with Valsartan

Valsartan may cause serious allergic reactions in some people. Seek immediate medical attention if you develop hives, have trouble breathing or experience swelling of your tongue or throat after taking the drug.

Some people who are allergic to valsartan also develop angioedema, which is a severe swelling beneath the surface of the skin. Many of those who experience this reaction have had the same reaction from taking other drugs, including ACE inhibitors. Valsartan’s label advises people who develop angioedema after taking valsartan not to take the drug again.

Pregnancy Side Effects

Do not take valsartan if you are pregnant or plan to get pregnant. Stop taking valsartan immediately if you discover you’re pregnant.

Fact
If taken during the second or third trimesters (the last six months of pregnancy), it may result in fetal injury or death.

Researchers don’t yet know if valsartan passes to a newborn through breast milk. To be safe, doctors strongly recommend not taking valsartan while you breastfeed. Talk to your doctor about alternative medications you can try until your baby can eat solid foods.

Liver Damage

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some people who took valsartan reported elevated liver enzymes as a result. The FDA also received rare reports from people who contracted hepatitis.

People with existing liver disease are effectively exposed to twice the amount of the drug per dose as people with normal hepatic function.

Sexual Function May Be Impacted

Manufacturers list impotence on the drug’s label as one of valsartan’s side effects. It’s unclear if impotence refers to erectile dysfunction. Many studies suggest valsartan has a positive effect on sexual function, especially in people with high blood pressure.

A 2020 literature review published in the Porto Biomedical Journal found that taking valsartan often increased sexual activity. This effect was even more pronounced in men ages 40 to 49.

The same review also found that taking valsartan usually improved erectile function and may enhance sexual desire. In studies that compared sexual function in men who took carvedilol or atenolol and men who took valsartan, only men who took valsartan did not suffer negative effects of their erectile function or testosterone levels.

Fact
Hypertensive men treated with valsartan were less likely to experience erectile dysfunction after treatment. Men who switched to valsartan from other drugs experienced the same positive effect.

There is little reason to fear that taking valsartan will impact your ability to have or enjoy sex. The drug is much more likely to enhance your sex life than harm it.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.