Commonly known as "water pills," these drugs help your kidneys get rid of extra water and salt from your body through your pee. Because you have less total fluid in your blood vessels, like a garden hose that's not turned on all the way, the pressure inside will be lower. This also makes it easier for your heart to pump.
You'll often start with a thiazide diuretic:
- Chlorthalidone (Hygroton)
- Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
- Hydrochlorothiazide or HCTZ (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, Microzide)
- Indapamide (Lozol)
- Metolazone (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Others your doctor may prescribe are:
- Amiloride (Midamor)
- Bumetanide (Bumex)
- Furosemide (Lasix)
- Spironolactone (Aldactone)
- Torsemide (Demadex)
- Triamterene (Dyrenium)
Different diuretics can be taken together, and you can take them with other medications, sometimes in the same pill.
While You're Taking Diuretics
Let your doctor know what medications (prescription and over-the-counter), supplements, and herbal remedies you use. Also, tell them about other medical problems you have.
They may want to regularly check your blood pressure as well as test your blood and pee for levels of specific minerals and to see how well your kidneys are working. They'll probably tell you to follow a low-sodium diet and limit how much salt you eat.
Because some diuretics also pull potassium out of your body, you might need to eat more foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach, and lentils, or take a potassium supplement. On the other hand, if you're taking a "potassium-sparing" diuretic, such as amiloride (Midamar), spironolactone (Aldactone), or triamterene (Dyrenium), they may want you to avoid potassium-rich foods, salt substitutes, low-sodium milk, and other sources of potassium.
If you only need one dose a day, you might want to take your diuretic in the morning so you can sleep through the night instead of getting up to go to the bathroom.
The water that comes out of your body has to go somewhere, so you can expect to be peeing more and more often for several hours after a dose.
You also run the risk of getting dehydrated, and simply drinking more fluids may not be enough. Call your doctor if you're very thirsty or have a very dry mouth, your pee is a deep yellow, you aren't peeing much or get constipated, or you have a bad headache.
You may feel dizzy or lightheaded, especially when you stand up, if your blood pressure has dropped too low, or you're getting dehydrated.
Your blood chemistry can get thrown off. You could have too little or too much sodium or potassium in your system. This can make you tired or weak or give you muscle cramps or a headache. It's rare, but your heart may speed up (over 100 beats a minute) or you might start throwing up because of a dangerously low potassium level.
Taking combination pills or multiple medicines could boost these side effects. To help lower those odds, ask your doctor when during the day you should take each medication.
Who Shouldn't Take Them?
Some diuretics are sulfa drugs, so they could cause a reaction if you're allergic.