What are diuretics?

Diuretics or “water pills” are medicines that stimulate urine production (cause you to pee). They work by releasing extra sodium (salt) and water from your kidneys. They are often used to treat high blood pressure because the release of fluid in the body can also relieve the amount of pressure in your blood vessels. This makes it easier for your heart to pump blood. Diuretics are commonly prescribed along with a low-sodium diet and certain lifestyle changes to help bring blood pressure down without the need for blood pressure medication.

Diuretic pills may also be used to treat glaucoma (to lessen eye pressure) or edema (swelling, particularly in legs, ankles and feet) and to minimize symptoms related to conditions such as heart failure, liver failure, and kidney stones.

Types of diuretics and diuretics lists

Different types of diuretics behave differently in different parts of the kidneys. The type you are prescribed depends on the condition and symptoms for which you're being treated.

Thiazide diuretics – reduce the amount of sodium that gets reabsorbed by the kidneys. This causes increased urine production. Thiazide diuretics list includes:

  • Bendroflumethiazide
  • Chlorothiazide
  • Chlorthalidone
  • Hydrochlorothiazide
  • Indapamide
  • Metolazone

Loop diuretics – referring to an area of the kidneys called the loop of Henle, this type of diuretic reduces sodium absorption as well as potassium and chloride absorption. The increased urine production helps reduce fluid retention in the body (edema) and lower blood pressure. Loop diuretics list includes:

  • Bumetanide
  • Furosemide
  • Torsemide

Potassium-sparing diuretics – cause increase in sodium and water production. This causes an increase in urine production without a significant loss of potassium. Potassium-sparing diuretics list includes:

  • Amiloride
  • Eplerenone
  • Spironolactone
  • Triamterene

Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors – mainly used to treat glaucoma by reducing fluid pressure around the eye. This type of diuretic increases the amount of bicarbonate, sodium, potassium and water that passes through the kidneys and out of the body. One example of this type of drug is acetazolamide.

If you are taking a diuretic that affects potassium levels, your doctor may recommend a potassium supplement or certain potassium-rich foods, such as bananas or lentils, to ensure you're replenishing your supply of the mineral.

Risks of diuretics

Diuretics will cause you to go to the bathroom frequently so you may find it inconvenient at first. Consider taking diuretic pills in the morning so the drug doesn't disrupt your sleep at night. Also be sure to drink a lot of water to remain hydrated since you'll frequently be urinating and your body may lose too much water in the process.