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Diuretics

Diuretics (water pills) help your body get rid of extra fluid. Getting rid of extra water will reduce the swelling in your feet, ankles, legs and abdomen. It also removes extra fluid in your lungs. This makes breathing easier.

Tips

Take your diuretic early in the morning so it works during the day. This reduces trips to the bathroom at night. If you take the diuretic two times a day, take the second dose no later than 4 or 5 p.m.

Be sure to wear sunscreen when you are outside on sunny days. Taking a diuretic may increase your sensitivity to sunlight.

If you take a diuretic you may go to the bathroom often and you may have a dry mouth. (Chewing gum or hard candy may help your dry mouth.) These are signs the diuretic is working properly and not cause for concern.

Frequently used diuretics include:

  • furosemide (Lasix®)
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    Furosemide

    Treats fluid retention (edema) and high blood pressure.

    Learn more about furosemide here.

  • bumetanide (Bumex®)
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    Bumetanide

    Treats fluid retention (edema) and high blood pressure.

    Learn more about bumetanide here.

  • hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ® or HydroDiuril®)
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    Hydrochlorothiazide

    Treats fluid retention (edema) and high blood pressure. This medicine is a combination of two types of diuretic (water pill).

    Learn more about hydrochlorothiazide here.

  • metolazone (Zaroxolyn®)
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    Metolazone

    Treats fluid retention (edema) and high blood pressure.

    Learn more about metolazone here.

  • triamterene/HCTZ (Dyazide®, Maxzide®).
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    Triamterene/HCTZ

    Treats fluid retention (edema) and high blood pressure. This medicine is a combination of two types of diuretic (water pill).

    Learn more about triamterene/HCTZ here.

Side effects

Tip

Call your health care provider if you have any of the following while taking a diuretic:

  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach cramps or diarrhea
  • leg cramps.

Diuretics have side effects. Some side effects may go away as your body adjusts to the diuretic. These include:

  • fluid loss (dehydration).
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    Dehydration

    Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should.

    Learn more about dehydration here.

    This can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded when you get up from lying down or sitting. Call your health care provider if you feel dizzy. Weigh yourself every day at the same time and on the same scale. Weigh yourself with the same amount of clothes on. Record your weight on a calendar or paper to track if you are losing too much fluid. Bring this log to your clinic visit.
  • potassium loss. Along with fluids, your body may lose potassium. This mineral is needed to keep a good heart rhythm. You may need a blood test occasionally to check your potassium level. If your level is low, you may need to take a potassium supplement.

Some things you can do to keep from getting too dizzy or lightheaded are:

Tip

Some diuretics may raise blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes, you need to be careful to test your glucose. Report any unusual findings to your health care provider.

  • Get up slowly.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol to one drink a day. One drink is:
    • 4 ounces of wine
    • 12 ounces of beer
    • 1 ounce of hard liquor.
  • Avoid standing for long periods of time.
  • Avoid exercise in hot weather.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have the following signs of low potassium:

Important

If you have any of the signs of too little potassium listed here, call your health care provider.

  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • thirst or dry mouth
  • weak or irregular heartbeat
  • mood changes
  • muscle cramps or pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • constipation.

 

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, third edition, ISBN 1-931876-20-7

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 07/19/2008

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts