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File:Acetazolamide skeletal.svg
File:Acetazolamide 3D.png
Systematic (IUPAC) name
Clinical data
  • AU: B3
  • US: C (Risk not ruled out)
Routes of
Oral, IV
Legal status
Legal status
Pharmacokinetic data
Metabolism None
Biological half-life 3 to 9 hours
Excretion Renal
CAS Number 59-66-5
ATC code S01EC01 (WHO)
PubChem CID 1986
DrugBank APRD00119
ChemSpider 1909
Chemical data
Formula C4H6N4O3S2
Molar mass 222.245 g/mol[[Script error: No such module "String".]]
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Acetazolamide, sold under the trade name Diamox, is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor that is used to treat glaucoma, epileptic seizures, benign intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri), altitude sickness, cystinuria, and dural ectasia. Acetazolamide is available as a generic drug and is also used as a diuretic.

Mechanism of action

Acetazolamide is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, which means that it forces the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate (HCO3-), thus re-acidifying the blood.

Carbonic anhydrase (CA) catalyzes the forward motion of molecules in the following equation:

CO2 + H2O >> CA >> H2CO3 >> H+ + HCO3-

where CA converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) to carbonic acid (H2CO3), but this is only the case when the current concentration of carbonic acid is less than it would be at equilibrium. Enzymes do not catalyze only one direction of a chemical reaction. Nevertheless, in situations where pCO2 is increased, CA does catalyze the formation of carbonic acid which then dissociates to a hydrogen ion (H+, an acidic proton), and a bicarbonate ion (HCO3-, a basic anion). In some tissues (particularly plants), the steady state displacement from equilibrium is such that the net reaction catalyzed by CA is conversion of carbonic acid to carbon dioxide and water.

Carbonic acid inhibitors, such as acetazolamide, inhibit CA in tissue and fluid, causing less movement of carbonic acid toward CO2 production. In the kidneys, blocking CA leads to bicarbonate wasting in the tubules (alkalizes urine), loss of bicarbonate subsequently leads to a metabolic acidosis. In the meantime, H+ backs up due to acetazolamide CA inhibition in the tubule and enters the cell with Cl-, then passes into the bloodstream, creating a hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis.[1] This effect can also be used for therapeutic correction of respiratory alkalosis.


Acetazolamide is often used in the treatment of various diseases.


It has been used for glaucoma sufferers.[2] The drug decreases fluid formation in the eye resulting in lower intraocular pressure.


In epilepsy, its main use is in absence seizures and myoclonic seizures.[3]. It can be used in both episodic ataxia types 1 and 2 (although the mechanisms are presumed to be different between the two).

In catamential epilepsy, an increase in seizure frequency around menses, acetazolamide can be an adjunct to an anti-seizure medication regimen to aid in decreasing seizure frequency around menses.

It is also used to decrease generation of cerebrospinal fluid in idiopathic intracranial hypertension[4] and has shown efficacy in some forms of periodic paralysis.[5]

Marfan syndrome

It's been demonstrated in drug trials to relieve symptoms associated with dural ectasia in individuals with Marfan Syndrome.[6]

Sleep apnea

Off-label uses include acetazolamide as a conjunction drug to merely assist patients with sleep apnea by lowering blood pH and encourage respiration.[7]

Acute mountain sickness

Acetazolamide is sometimes taken prophylactically, anywhere between 125 milligrams (mg) to 1000 mg per day[8][9], starting a few days before going to higher altitudes. Such use is recommended for those ascending from sea level to 3000 meters (9800 feet) in one day, or for those ascending more than 600 meters (2000 feet) per day once above an altitude of 2500 meters (8200 feet).[10][11] Also, prophylactic use is recommended for those with a significant history of acute mountain sickness.

The drug forces the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate, the conjugate base of carbonic acid. By increasing the amount of bicarbonate excreted in the urine, the blood becomes more acidic.[11] Acidifying the blood stimulates ventilation, which increases the amount of oxygen in the blood.[12][13] At high altitudes, climbers hyperventilate in response to lower oxygen levels. The hyperventilation results in reduced carbon dioxide (an acid) and a respiratory alkalosis. The normal physiologic response to a respiratory alkalosis is for the kidneys to increase excretion of bicarbonate (a base) to compensate for the loss of carbon dioxide. This kidney response takes a few days, however acetazolamide in a sense accelerates this process by leading to a more rapid renal bicarbonate loss (metabolic acidosis).

Note that acetazolamide is not an immediate fix for acute mountain sickness; it speeds up part of the acclimatization process which in turn helps to relieve symptoms.[8][14] This may take up to a day or two, and requires waiting without any further rapid ascent. It is often advisable to descend if even mild acute mountain sickness is experienced. If serious sickness is encountered, descent is considered mandatory unless other circumstances present greater danger.


Common side effects of using this drug include numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes, and taste alterations (parageusia), especially for carbonated drinks. Some may also experience blurred vision but this usually disappears shortly after stopping the medication. Acetazolamide also increases the risk of developing calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate kidney stones. Everyone will experience more frequent urination as a result of using acetazolamide. One should drink more fluids than usual to prevent dehydration and headaches. Acetazolamide prolongs the effects of amphetamines and related drugs. Acetazolamide also causes metabolic acidosis.


Acetazolamide should not be taken by individuals if:



Roblin, Richard O.; Clapp, James W. (1950). Journal of the American Chemical Society. 72: 4890. doi:10.1021/ja01167a011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)


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es:Acetazolamida fa:استازولامید fr:Acétazolamide it:Acetazolamide ja:アセタゾラミド pl:Acetazolamid pt:Acetazolamida ro:Acetazolamidă ru:Ацетазоламид

  1. Renal and Electrolyte Disorders Schrier 1976: page 89
  2. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found.
  3. "Treatment of Epilepsy | Comprehensive Epilepsy Center | NYU Medical Center, New York, NY". Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
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  6. Scoliosis Research Society (2006-11-27). "Dural Ectasia in the Marfan Spine: Symptoms and Treatment.also it's been used in high-altitude mountain sickness". SpineUniverse. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  7. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Cymerman, A; Rock, PB. "Medical Problems in High Mountain Environments. A Handbook for Medical Officers". USARIEM-TN94-2. US Army Research Inst. of Environmental Medicine Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division Technical Report. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  9. "FDA drug information, acetazolamide capsule, extended release". Barr Laboratories, Inc. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  10. Hackett, P.H. & Roach, R.C. (2001). "High-altitude illness". The New England Journal of Medicine. 345 (2): 107–114. doi:10.1056/NEJM200107123450206. PMID 11450659. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Fulco, CS; Ditzler, D; Soares, R; Lammi, E; Muza, SR; Degroot, DW (2002). "Effect of Acetazolamide on Isolated Quadriceps Muscle Endurance Performance at Sea Level and During Acute Altitude Exposure". US Army Research Inst. of Environmental Medicine Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division Technical Report (USARIEM-TR-T02/9). Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  12. "". 2004. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
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  14. Muza, SR; Fulco, CS; Cymerman, A (2004). "Altitude Acclimatization Guide". US Army Research Inst. of Environmental Medicine Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division Technical Report (USARIEM-TN-04-05). Retrieved 2009-03-05.