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Diuretics (often called water pills) are drugs that cause the body to rid itself of excess fluids and sodium through urination. Excess fluid in the body can lead to high blood pressure. This helps to relieve the heart's workload and also decreases the buildup of fluid in the lungs and other parts of the body, such as the ankles and legs. Different diuretics remove fluid at varied rates and through different methods. They are used to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and some congenital heart defects.
The most commonly used diuretics to treat hypertension include hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril), the loop diuretics furosemide (Lasix), the combination of triamterene and hydrochlorothiazide (Dyazide), and metolazone (Zaroxolyn). For individuals who are allergic to sulfa drugs, ethacrynic acid, a loop diuretic, is a good option. Diuretics probably should not be used in pregnant women.
Possible side effects from diuretics:
- Some of these drugs may decrease your body's supply of the mineral potassium. Symptoms such as weakness, leg cramps or being tired may result. Eating foods containing potassium may help prevent significant potassium loss. If your doctor recommends it, you could prevent potassium loss by taking a liquid or tablet that has potassium along with the diuretic. Diuretics such as amiloride (Midamar)*, spironolactone (Aldactone)* or triamterene (Dyrenium)* are called "potassium sparing" agents. They don't cause the body to lose potassium. They might be prescribed alone, but are usually used with another diuretic. Some of these combinations are Aldactazide*, Dyazide*, Maxzide* or Moduretic*.
- Some people suffer from attacks of gout after prolonged treatment with diuretics. This side effect isn't common and can be managed by other treatment.
- People with diabetes may find that diuretic drugs increase their blood sugar level. A change in medication, diet, insulin or oral anti-diabetic dosage corrects this in most cases. Most of the time the degree of increase in blood sugar isn't much. Your doctor may change your treatment.
- Impotence may also occur in a small percentage of people.
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