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What to Know About Diuretics

Diuretics, also called water pills, are medications designed to increase the amount of water and salt expelled from the body as urine. There are three types of prescription diuretics. They’re often prescribed to help treat high blood pressure, but they’re used for other conditions as well.

The most common condition treated with diuretics is high blood pressure. The drugs reduce the amount of fluid in your blood vessels, and this helps lower your blood pressure.

Other conditions are also treated with diuretics. Congestive heart failure, for instance, keeps your heart from pumping blood effectively throughout your body. This leads to a buildup of fluids in your body, which is called edema. Diuretics can help reduce this fluid buildup.

The three types of diuretic medications are called thiazide, loop, and potassium-sparing diuretics. All of them make your body excrete more fluids as urine.

Thiazide diuretics

Thiazides are the most commonly prescribed diuretics. They’re most often used to treat high blood pressure. These drugs not only decrease fluids, they also cause your blood vessels to relax.

Thiazides are sometimes taken with other medications used to lower blood pressure. Examples of thiazides include:

  • chlorthalidone
  • hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide)
  • metolazone
  • indapamide

Loop diuretics

Loop diuretics are often used to treat heart failure. Examples of these drugs include:

  • torsemide (Demadex)
  • furosemide (Lasix)
  • bumetanide

Potassium-sparing diuretics

Potassium-sparing diuretics reduce fluid levels in your body without causing you to lose potassium, an important nutrient.

The other types of diuretics cause you to lose potassium, which can lead to health problems such as arrhythmia. Potassium-sparing diuretics may be prescribed for people at risk of low potassium levels, such as those who take other medications that deplete potassium.

Potassium-sparing diuretics don’t reduce blood pressure as well as the other types of diuretics do. Therefore, your doctor may prescribe a potassium-sparing diuretic with another medication that also lowers blood pressure.

Examples of potassium-sparing diuretics include:

  • amiloride
  • triamterene (Dyrenium)
  • spironolactone (Aldactone)
  • eplerenone (Inspra)

Diuretics, also commonly called water pills, are medications that help increase the amount of water and salt that’s lost from the body. Learn about the three types of diuretics available, what conditions they’re used to treat, and their side effects and risks.