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What is iloprost and why is it prescribed?

Iloprost is a man-made form of a substance called prostacyclin which is produced naturally in the body. Iloprost is used to improve blood flow in people with severe circulatory problems.

Epoprostenol is another form of prostacyclin, used by some doctors for the same reasons and in the same way. The information in these pages refers to both iloprost and epoprostenol.

Iloprost or epoprostenol may be prescribed if you have ulcers of the fingers resulting from systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) or related conditions. They may also be used for severe Raynaud's phenomenon or when there is gangrene due to very poor circulation.

Iloprost improves the circulation of the blood by:

  • opening up the blood vessels, which helps them to carry more blood to all areas of the body
  • reducing clumping of the red cells in the blood, which reduces the tendency of the blood to clot
  • helping to prevent or repair damage to blood vessels.

Iloprost usually starts to work immediately, although it can sometimes take up to six weeks.

If you've been suffering with very cold hands or feet they may feel warmer straight away. Ulcers may begin to improve within a few days.

Iloprost's beneficial effects may carry on for weeks and sometimes even months after the infusion.

Usually, iloprost is prescribed if other drugs such as nifedipine haven't worked for you. Your doctor will discuss other treatment options with you if need be.

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