Diuretics, aka “water pills,” help get rid of unneeded water and salt through the urine. Ridding hte body of excess salt and fluid helps lower blood pressure and can make it easier for the heart to pump. Diuretics may be used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney and liver problems, and also glaucoma. Examples of diuretics include:
- Esidrix (hydrochlorothiazide, aka “HCTZ”)
- Demadex (torsemide)
- Zaroxolyn (metolazone)
- Aldactone (spironolactone)
- Lasix (furosemide)
- Bumex (bumetanide)
Diuretics are categorized as thiazide-like (Zaroxolyn and Esidrix), loop (Lasix, Bumex) or potassium-sparing (Aldactone). Thiazide diuretics provide the most effect on blood pressure, cause moderate increases in sodium excretion, and are appropriate for long-term use. Potassium-sparing diuretics help your body retain potassium are used more often in congestive heart failure patients and are often prescribed in conjunction with the other two types of diuretics. Loop diuretics are more powerful and are often used when people have congestive heart failure symptoms and are especially useful in emergencies.
The major side effect is likely to be frequent urination which may last for several hours after a dose. Other possible side effects are:
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
- Electrolyte abnormalities- Blood test monitoring of electrolytes is important before and during the taking of these medications.
- Extreme tiredness or weakness. These effects should decrease as your body adjusts to the medication. Call your doctor if these symptoms persist.
- Muscle cramps or weakness. Be sure that you are taking your potassium supplement correctly, if prescribed. Contact your doctor if these symptoms persist.
- Dizziness, lightheadedness. Try rising more slowly when getting up from a lying or sitting position.
- Blurred vision, confusion, headache, increased perspiration (sweating), and restlessness. If these effects are persistent or severe, contact your doctor.
- Dehydration. Signs include dizziness, extreme thirst, excessive dryness of the mouth, decreased urine output, dark-colored urine or constipation.
If these symptoms occur, call your doctor and don’t assume you need more fluids. If you experience fever, sore throat, cough, ringing in the ears, unusual bleeding or bruising, rapid and excessive weight loss, contact your doctor right away. If you experiencce skin rash stop taking the medication contact your doctor right away as this may indicate medication allergy. If you experience loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or muscle cramps. be sure that you are taking your potassium supplement correctly, if prescribed. Rarely, potassium-sparing diuretics like Aldactone can cause breast enlargement in men and women, deepening of the voice, increase in hair growth and irregular menstrual cycles. Contact your doctor if you have these or any other symptoms that cause concern.