What is a Diuretic

Diuretics, or water pills, can help your body shed excess fluid through your kidneys. This class of medications are typically prescribed to treat high blood pressure, fluid buildup within the body due to heart failure, fluid buildup in the abdomen because of liver damage, or the eye condition glaucoma.  Some other reasons your doctor may prescribe water pills is polycystic ovarian syndrome, kidney stones, diabetes insipidus and osteoporosis.

Diuretics that doctors prescribe come in several different classes and can work differently with the kidneys to rid the body of excess salt and water.  In general, there are four different classes of diuretics.

1. Loop Diuretics

·       Act at the ascending loop of Henle in the kidney

·       Primarily used to treat hypertension and edema caused by congestive heart failure

·       More effective for patients with impaired kidney function compared to other diuretics

·       Drugs include Lasix, bumetanide, Demadex, and Edecrin

2. Thiazide Diuretics

·       Act on the distal convoluted tubule and inhibit the sodium-chloride symporter

·       More effective for patients with normal kidney function

·       Has a vasodilator effect

·       Drugs include Microzide, chlorthalidone, and Zaroxolyn

3. Potassium-sparing diuretics

·       Do not promote the secretion of potassium into the urine

·       Potassium is retained and not lost as much as with other diuretics

·       Drugs include Aldactone, Inspra, Dyrenium, and Midamor

4. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors

·       Inhibit the enzyme carbonic anhydrase which is found in the proximal convoluted tubule

·       This results in bicarbonate accumulation in the urine and decreased sodium absorption

·       mainly used for glaucoma and sickness

·       drugs include Diamox          

What are the common side effects diuretics can have?

·       Dizziness or headache

·       Thirstiness

·       Rash or itching

·       Higher blood glucose or cholesterol level

·       Changes in your sexual function or menstrual period

·       Muscle cramps

·       Ringing in the ears

·       Low sodium, potassium, and/or magnesium levels in the blood

·       High potassium levels in the blood

·       Enlarged breasts in men

There are also certain high blood pressure medications that can cause erectile problems, diuretics are one of these sets of medications.  Diuretics may decrease the force of blood flow to the penis or decrease the amount of zinc in the body. Zinc is needed to make testosterone.  Beta blockers are the second blood pressure medication that affects erectile problems. Beta-blockers decrease the response to nerve impulses that produce an erection. This makes it more difficult for the arteries in the penis to widen and let blood flow in.