WHAT IS A DIURETIC?
A diuretic is a medicine taken to help your body lose excess water and salt through your urine. There are many different kinds of diuretics. Amiloride, bumetanide, chlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, spironolactone, and triamterene are generic names for some common diuretics. Different types of diuretics may be combined into 1 pill.
Diuretics are commonly called water pills.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Diuretics work on the kidneys to help your body get rid of more sodium (salt) and water. Then you have less fluid in the blood vessels. This helps lower your blood pressure. It makes it easier for your heart to pump.
WHEN ARE THEY USED?
Diuretics are used alone or with other medicines to treat high blood pressure.
Diuretics may also be used when too much water builds up in the body. This can happen, for example, when a diseased heart cannot pump well and water collects in the body, causing a problem called heart failure.
Diuretics may also be used to treat:
· glaucoma, which means there is high fluid pressure in the eye, which can cause blindness
· edema (swelling in the ankles and feet)
· some types of kidney and liver disease
There are many kinds of diuretics that work in slightly different ways. Your primary care provider will choose the type they believe is best for you.
WHAT SHOULD I WATCH OUT FOR WHILE TAKING THIS MEDICINE?
Diuretics may make you urinate more often. You may need to adjust when you take the medicine so that you don’t have to urinate more at awkward times.
Some diuretics make your body lose potassium. They are called potassium-wasting diuretics. Potassium is a mineral that helps your heart rhythm stay regular, among other things. If you are taking a diuretic that makes you lose potassium, the level of potassium in your blood can get too low. This can make you feel weak and cause your heart to beat irregularly. You may not be able to feel the irregular heartbeats, but it may be dangerous. Your primary care provider may tell you to eat foods that have more potassium. Potassium is found in leafy vegetables, fruit and vegetable juices, and bananas. Dried fruits like raisins have high amounts of potassium. Your primary care provider may suggest that you take potassium supplements. Do not take potassium supplements without your primary care provider’s approval.
Other diuretics that cause your body to hold onto potassium are called potassium-sparing diuretics. If you are taking this type of diuretic, the level of potassium in your blood can get too high. This may cause slow or irregular heartbeats. Some other types of medicines, such as ACE inhibitors, can also make your body hold onto potassium. Taking medicines like these with diuretics can make it more likely that you will have problems with high levels of potassium.
Also, if you have diabetes or kidney disease, you are more likely to have high potassium levels if you are taking potassium-sparing diuretics. Do not take any salt substitutes or potassium supplements if you are taking a potassium-sparing diuretic without your primary care provider’s approval.
Diuretics can have other side effects.
· Because diuretics lower blood pressure, you may become lightheaded or even faint when you stand. This is more likely if you are also taking other medicines for high blood pressure. If you have these symptoms, tell your primary care provider right away.
· Diuretics may make it easier for you to get dehydrated. If you have extreme thirst, a very dry mouth, or unusual dizziness, tell your primary care provider right away.
· Diuretics may raise the level of uric acid in your blood and increase your risk of gout. Gout is a painful condition that may damage your joints.
· If you are diabetic, diuretics may raise your blood sugar. You may need to check your blood sugar more often when you first start taking a diuretic.
Report these side effects to your primary care provider right away:
· palpitations (irregular or forceful heartbeats)
· unusual weakness or severe muscle cramps
· unusual dizziness or fainting
· extreme thirst or dry mouth
· severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
· rash or itching
Ask your primary care provider which type of diuretic you are taking. You will need to have regular blood tests to check your potassium levels. Your primary care provider may ask you to weigh yourself regularly. Your primary care provider will also check your blood pressure regularly and may check other blood tests. Talk with your primary care provider about this.
Diuretics are very effective and safe when used as prescribed. Talk with your primary care provider or pharmacist if you have any questions.