What are diuretics?
Diuretics are drugs that enable the body to get rid of excess fluids, via urination. Commonly called "water pills", some diuretics are available over-the-counter while others require a doctor's prescription.
What are diuretics used for?
Diuretics are used to treat a condition called edema (an accumulation of fluid in the body, heart-related diseases and high blood pressure. By helping the body eliminate excess fluid, diuretics also help get rid of excess salt.
During surgical procedures diuretics may be used to reduce swelling and blood pressure.
There are various types of diuretics.
LOOP DIURETICS: These are named after the loop-shaped part of the kidney where diuretics work. Well-known loop diuretics are Lasix and Bumex.
POTASSIUM-SPARING DIURETICS: These diuretics prevent the body losing potassium. Well-known potassium-sparing diuretics are Midamor and Dyrenium.
THIAZIDE DIURETICS: These are frequently prescribed diuretics such as Hygroton, Diuril and Esidrix.
OSMOTIC DIURETICS prevent fluid from being re-absorbed by the kidneys. Mannitol is an osmotic diuretic that is administered intravenously to reduce swelling of the brain.
CARBONIC ANHYDRASE INHIBITORS are also diuretics frequently used for the treatment of glaucoma. The most common carbonix anhydrase inhibitor is Acetazolamide that can be taken orally or as eye-drops.
The dose will depend on the patient and the condition for which the diuretic is being used. Diuretics should always be used as prescribed.
Diuretics increase the frequency of urination so it is advisable to take doses at a time that will reduce the likelihood of sleep disruption at night.
Warnings and Precautions
When treatment with a diuretic begins, some people suffer with fatigue. This symptom is usually temporary and should disappear as the body gets used to the medication.
Whilst using a diuretic it is important to have regular check-ups by a doctor to ensure the diuretic us having the desired results.
People using potassium-sparing diuretics should not take potassium supplements and ensure that their diet does not include large amounts of potassium. However, people using a diuretic that absorbs potassium from the body may require an increase of foods containing potassium.
Diuretics can cause dizziness or lightheadedness when getting up after lying down or sitting. If this occurs, get up gradually. Do not exercise vigorously in hot weather, and avoid standing for long periods.
Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol while using a diuretic.
Certain diuretics may increase sensitivity to the sun. When going outside wear suitable clothing and use a sunscreen. People with fair skin must use a sunscreen with a high SP factor. Do not use sun beds or tanning booths.
Before using a diuretic make sure your doctor has comprehensive details of your medical history, as well as other medications you are using, including herbal medicines. Diuretics can react badly with some medications.
Pregnant women, and women who are breast-feeding, should only use a diuretic if approved by a doctor.
Mild side-effects include nausea or vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, stomach cramps, or dizziness. These usually disappear as the body becomes accustomed to the diuretic.
Side-effects that may indicate that too much potassium is in the bloodstream include breathing problems, confusion, fatigue or weakness, irregular heartbeat, weakness, and tingling or numbness in the feet, hands or lips. Contact a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.
Side-effects that may indicate a lack of potassium in the bloodstream include nausea or vomiting, fast or irregular heartbeat, dry mouth, weak pulse, fatigue or weakness, muscle cramps, and change in behavior or mood. Contact a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.
Symptoms of overdose include fainting, cramps, low blood pressure, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, slow breathing, sensitivity to sunlight, seizures, rash, frequent urination, vision problems, jaundice, or vomiting.