DIURETICS: Types, Effects, and Risks


Diuretics are medications made to boost the level of water and salt that are expelled from the body in the form of urine. Also known as water pills, diuretics help the kidneys put extra salt into your urine. These drugs are often prescribed to help treat high blood pressure and other issues as well. Diuretics make you urinate more frequently, so it’s advisable you take them in the morning. At times, you’ll have to take them twice a day at the same time for optimal results.

What Does Diuretics Help Treat?

Diuretics are commonly known for treating high blood pressure. They aid in reducing the level of fluid in the blood vessels which directly lowers your blood pressure. These drugs can also help in treating congestive heart failure ( a condition that prevents the heart from pumping blood throughout the whole body). This condition leads to an accumulation of fluid in your body; another condition is called edema. Diuretics can however aid in reducing the buildup of this fluid.

What are The Different Types of Diuretics?

There are basically three types of diuretics. They include:

  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Loop diuretics
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics

Note that each type of diuretic has a specific part of the kidney in which it functions. The best diuretic for your system depends on your general health and the condition being treated. Let’s have quick look at the different types of diuretics.

Thiazide Diuretics

This type is the commonly prescribed diuretic. They aid in treating high blood pressure as they not only decrease fluids but also keep your blood vessels at a relaxed phase. These drugs are at times prescribed with other medications notable for lowering blood pressure. Examples of the thiazides taken orally include;

  • Metlazene
  • Indapamide
  • Hydrochlorothiazide
  • Chlorthalidone
  • Chlorothiazide

Loop Diuretics

Loop diuretics are commonly known for interfering with the passage of salt and water across various cells in the kidney. It is used for treating heart disease as it also aids in minimizing the symptoms of edema and any breathlessness caused by fluid congestion. Aside from heart failure, medical professionals also use loop diuretics to manage other conditions relating to fluid buildup. Conditions like high blood pressure and edema, even nephrotic syndrome or cirrhosis can be managed with loop diuretics. Examples of loop diuretics include:

  • Bumetanide
  • Furosemide
  • Ethacrynic acid
  • Torsemide


Potassium-sparing diuretics

Potassium-sparing diuretics are known for reducing the fluid level of the body with no loss in potassium. The other two diuretics cause a huge loss in potassium which causes various health issues like arrhythmia. Unlike other diuretics, potassium-sparing diuretics don’t reduce blood pressure. The doctor can however prescribe this medication with others that help lower blood pressure. Examples of potassium-sparing diuretics include:

  • Amiloride
  • Spironolactone
  • Eplerenone
  • Triamterene

What are the Side Effects Of Diuretics?

Though taking diuretics as prescribed does not pose any serious issue to your health, they are still some notable side effects attached to it. The side effects of diuretics include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Reduction in the level of potassium in the blood (When Thiazide or loop diuretics are used).
  • High level of potassium in the blood (when potassium-sparing diuretics are used).
  • Headache
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Consistent muscle cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Increased cholesterol level.

Aside from the stated symptoms, some persons may also experience more serious side effects in rare cases. These side effects include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Allergic reactions
  • Irregular heartbeat (either too fast or too slow).

What Can I Do When I Notice These Symptoms?

If you by any chance notice any of these symptoms while taking diuretics, you should consult your doctor immediately. Your doctor will check to know the major cause of the symptoms, and also prescribe a different medication or multiple medications to aid relieve you of the side effects. 

Remember, a diuretic is a drug, and before taking any drug, ensure you consult your doctor for a proper prescription.

What Are The Possible Risks of Diuretics?

Though diuretics are considered to be generally safe, there exist certain risks attached when you’re a sufferer of certain medical ailments or take other prescriptions.

Effects of diuretics on certain health conditions

A person suffering from any health condition should always inform the doctor before taking any prescribed diuretics. This medication can either worsen a condition or reduce its effects. Some notable effects on various health conditions include;

  • Pancreatitis: When you’ve got Pancreatitis, you should stay clear of diuretics as they can worsen the symptoms of this condition, leaving you at a high risk of acute pancreatitis.
  • Gout: Diuretics can also increase your risk of developing gout. So, you’ll have to inform the doctor before taking any diuretic if you’ve got gout.
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are advised to stay off diuretics to prevent any complications in the long run.It is important to note that some diuretics, especially thiazides play an important role in managing type 2 diabetes and hypertension. But still, consult your doctor before taking any of it.

Aside from the stated conditions, diuretics may also worsen other conditions like menstrual problems (for women), dehydration and kidney problems.

Interactions with other medications

When you’re placed on a new medication, ensure you let your doctor know about other medications, herbs or supplements you’re taking. Doing so will help the doctor check for any possible interactions between the new medication and the one you’re taking already. Some drugs when interacting with diuretics might pose certain life-threatening conditions. Examples of these medications include:

  • Digoxin
  • Anti-hypertensive agents
  • Acid salts
  • Potassium
  • Cyclosporine
  • Magnesium
  • Laxatives
  • Oral anti-diabetic agents


Today, medical professionals find diuretics to be the perfect match for treating a range of conditions including congestive heart failure, edema and high blood pressure. These medications can increase your level of urine production as they tend to boost the rate at which water and salt are expelled from the body in the form of urine. Though they may look all advantageous, there also come with some risks attached. So, you should always consult your doctor for a better prescription and stay healthy always!