Diuretics, called water pills colloquially, assist your kidneys in getting rid of excess water through a process called diuresis, which causes an increase in the production of urine.
Ridding your body of excess water allows your heart to work more efficiently and can lower your blood pressure.
Diuretics are usually the first line of treatment for people with various conditions. If you have high blood pressure, diuretics remove excess fluid from the body and lowers blood pressure.
If you have Congestive Heart Failure, diuretics are often prescribed to assist in preventing edema—a buildup of fluids in your body—so that your heart circulates blood effectively.
These are not the only two conditions that diuretics can treat, but they are two of the most common.
There are three types of diuretics that work to reduce the salt and water in your system. They all work a little differently and are prescribed to you based on your healthcare needs.
- Thiazide diuretics are the most commonly prescribed diuretics. Thiazides work in two ways. They reduce the salt and water in your body, and they cause the blood vessels to widen, which helps reduce blood pressure.These types of diuretics are often used in conjunction with other medications to help people control high blood pressure. Examples of thiazides are chlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, hydrochlorothiazide, metolazone, and indapamide.
- Loop-acting diuretics cause the kidneys to increase the flow of urine by disrupting water and salt traveling through a cell structure called the loop of Henle and are mainly used to treat heart failure.Any fluid that has accumulated in the bloodstream is passed through the kidneys, easing symptoms of breathlessness and swelling. Examples of loop diuretics are bumetanide, torsemide, furosemide, and ethacrynic acid.
- Potassium-sparing diuretics increase urine production without causing you to lose potassium in your body. Potassium is an important nutrient that aids with such things as heart health. Arrhythmia, irregular beating of the heart, is one side effect of low potassium.Potassium-sparing diuretics work by blocking a hormone in the body called aldosterone, which causes the kidneys to produce and pass more fluid in response. This type of diuretic isn’t typically prescribed to patients with high blood pressure as it doesn’t work effectively enough to reduce blood pressure, but it can be used in conjunction with other medications and for people who may have low potassium.
Common side effects of taking diuretics include headaches, increase in blood glucose, low potassium levels (loop diuretics and thiazide diuretics), dizziness, and thirst.
If you have any of these side effects or others not listed here that you think are being caused by your diuretic, consult your doctor as soon as possible. However, don’t stop taking your medicine until you’ve spoken with your physician and they have evaluated your situation.