Treating Heart Failure With Diuretics

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 20, 2022
3 min read

Diuretics, better known as "water pills," help the kidneys get rid of unneeded water and salt. This makes it easier for your heart to pump.

These medicines may be used to treat high blood pressure and ease the swelling and water buildup caused by many medical problems, including heart failure. Diuretics also help to make breathing easier.

There are several types, including:

Follow the label. If you are taking a single dose a day, take it in the morning with your breakfast or right afterward. If you’re taking more than one dose a day, take your last dose no later than 4 p.m.

The number of doses you take each day, the time between doses, and how long you need to take it will depend on the type of diuretic you’re prescribed and your condition.

Frequent urination : This may last up to 6 hours after a dose.

Extreme tiredness or weakness: Both should get better as your body adjusts to the medication. If not, call your doctor.

Muscle cramps, thirst, loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting: If you have any of these, make sure you’re taking your potassium supplement correctly, if you were prescribed one. Call your doctor if these symptoms last.

Dizziness, lightheadedness: Try getting up more slowly when you’re lying or sitting.

Blurred vision, confusion, headache, increased sweating, and restlessness: If these stick around a while or are severe, talk to your doctor.

Dehydration: Signs of this include:

  • Dizziness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Extreme dry mouth
  • You have to pee less
  • Your pee is a dark color
  • Constipation

If you have these symptoms, don't assume you need more fluids. Call your doctor right away.

Callyour doctor right away if you have:

Skin rash: Stop taking the medication and call your doctor right away.

Call your doctor if you have any other symptoms that cause concern.

Diuretics are sometimes prescribed in combination with an ACE inhibitor, digoxin, and a beta-blocker or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARBEntresto. If you have more side effects after taking your medicines together, call your doctor. You may need to change the times you are taking each drug.

Potassium-sparing diuretics increase the effects of digoxin and lithium. They may increase your body's potassium level if taken with ACE inhibitors.

Before a diuretic is prescribed, tell your doctor if you are taking other drugs for high blood pressure, digoxin, Indocin, lithium, probenecid, or corticosteroids (prednisone).

Before you’re prescribed a diuretic, tell your doctor if you have diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or gout.

Follow your doctor's advice about your diet. This may include:

  • A low-salt diet
  • Taking a potassium supplement
  • Adding high-potassium foods (such as bananas and orange juice) in your diet.

Note: Some diuretics cause your body to lose potassium. If you’re taking a "potassium-sparing" diuretic, your doctor may want you to avoid potassium-rich foods, salt substitutes, low-salt milk, and other sources of potassium. If you are not sure what type of diuretic you are taking, ask your doctor.

Weigh yourself at the same time every day (on the same scale) and record your weight. Call your doctor if you gain 2 pounds in 1 day or 5 pounds in 1 week.

While taking them, have your blood pressure and kidneys tested regularly, as advised by your doctor.

Keep all appointments with your doctor and the lab so that your doctor can monitor your response to the medicine.

Avoid alcohol and sleep aids. They may increase the side effects of this drug.