Why is this medication prescribed?
Methyldopa is used to treat high blood pressure. Methyldopa is in a class of medications called antihypertensives. It works by relaxing the blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily through the body.
High blood pressure is a common condition and when not treated, can cause damage to the brain, heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of the body. Damage to these organs may cause heart disease, a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, loss of vision, and other problems. In addition to taking medication, making lifestyle changes will also help to control your blood pressure. These changes include eating a diet that is low in fat and salt, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising at least 30 minutes most days, not smoking, and using alcohol in moderation.
How should this medicine be used?
Methyldopa comes as a tablet and a liquid to take by mouth. It usually is taken two to four times a day. To help you remember to take methyldopa, take it around the same times every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take methyldopa exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Shake the liquid well before each dose to mix the medication evenly. Use a dose-measuring spoon or cup to measure the correct amount of liquid for each dose, not a regular household spoon.
Methyldopa controls high blood pressure but does not cure it. Continue to take methyldopa even if you feel well. Do not stop taking methyldopa without talking to your doctor. If you suddenly stop taking methyldopa, your blood pressure may increase and you may experience side effects. Your doctor will decrease your dose gradually.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking methyldopa,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to methyldopa, any other medications, sulfites, or any of the ingredients in methyldopa tablets or liquid. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor if you are taking a monoamine oxidase (MAOs) inhibitor such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate). Your doctor will probably tell you not to take methyldopa.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: haloperidol (Haldol), levodopa (in Sinemet, in Stalevo), lithium (Lithobid), other medications for high blood pressure, and tolbutamide. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- do not take with iron supplements or vitamins containing iron.
- tell you doctor if you have or have ever had kidney or liver disease, including hepatitis or cirrhosis.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking methyldopa, call your doctor.
- talk to your doctor about the risks of taking methyldopa if you are 65 years of age or older. Older adults should not usually take methyldopa because it is not as safe as other medications that can be used to treat the same condition.
- if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking methyldopa.
- you should know that this medication may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery for 48-72 hours after you begin to take methyldopa or after your dose is increased.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Your doctor may prescribe a low-salt or low-sodium diet. Follow these directions carefully.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Methyldopa may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- muscle weakness
- swollen ankles or feet
- upset stomach
- dry mouth
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- unexplained fever
- extreme tiredness
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
Methyldopa may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store tablets at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). The liquid may be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA's Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. http://www.upandaway.org
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your blood pressure should be checked regularly to determine your response to methyldopa. Your doctor may order certain lab tests to monitor your red blood cell count and liver function.
Methyldopa may cause your urine to darken when it is exposed to air. This effect is harmless.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
Brand names of combination products
- Aldochlor® (containing Chlorothiazide, Methyldopa)¶
¶ This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.