Drug class: diuretics (loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics, potassium-sparing diuretics)

Generic (Brand) names: bumetanide (Bumex), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), metolazone (Zaroxolyn), torsemide (Demadex)

Heart failure causes fluid buildup in the lungs and body tissues. This can set off a range of symptoms include cough and shortness of breath; weight gain; fatigue; and swelling in the ankles, legs, and abdomen.

Diuretics, which are sometimes called ďwater pills,Ē help to prevent and relieve fluid buildup in the body.

Diuretics help your kidneys eliminate excess sodium and water from your blood and excess water from your body. This lowers blood pressure, making it easier for your heart to pump.

Diuretics also relieve swelling and make it easier for you to breathe.

Diuretics improve heart failure symptoms faster than other heart failure medications. They also reduce hospitalizations.

Side effects may include:

  • Low blood levels of potassium
  • Frequent urination
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Gout, a painful form of arthritis

Your provider will have told you what dose of this medication to take, and how many times per day to take it. The label on your medication bottle should also indicate how many pills to take, and how often.

Your provider may adjust your dose over time, or increase it temporarily to relieve fluid buildup.

Make sure the dose you need to take matches the strength of the tablets in your bottle. If the strength of your tablet does not match the dose you have been prescribed, you may need to split the pill and have only part of it, or take more than one pill. Always remember to consult your provider if you are unclear about what your most recent dose of diureticis.

Take this medication earlier in the day if possible, so you do not have to wake up at night to urinate.

Tell your provider if you experience side effects. He or she may be able to switch you to a different drug, change your dose, or adjust your medication schedule.

If too much water is lost, you will become dehydrated. This means that you do not have enough water in your body. You may feel dizzy and weak if this happens

Loop diuretics and thiazide diuretics can cause dangerously low levels of potassium. Low potassium levels can cause muscle weakness and heart rhythm disturbances. If you are taking a loop or thiazide diuretic, you may need to take a potassium supplement.

Potassium-sparing diuretics, on the other hand, can cause high levels of potassium. High potassium levels can lead to dangerous heartbeat irregularities and even sudden death.

Weigh yourself every day. Abrupt weight gain can be a sign that you are retaining fluid and need to adjust your diuretic dose.

Your provider may ask you to regularly check your blood pressure at home to make sure it is not too low.

You may also need regular blood tests to check your potassium level and kidney function.

If you do not take this medication as directed you will feel worse overall and will likely experience symptoms that results from fluid buildup in the lungs and tissues.

Needing to urinate more frequently when you take diuretics can interfere with sleep and outings. It can also increase your risk for dehydration if you donít pay attention to keeping your fluid level in balance. Although these side effects can be inconvenient, donít be tempted to skip pills or stop taking them. Here are some tips to help you manage your medicines.

  • Pay attention to how soon you need to urinate after taking your pill. Plan your trips away from home for when your medicine is less active.
  • Find out where the bathroom is when you go to a new place. This will save time and hassles when you have to go.
  • Donít skip your medicine when youíre on vacation.
  • Since your diuretic will be most active in the first two or three hours, take your pill in the morning to avoid having to wake up to use the bathroom during the night.
  • If you take two doses, take your second pill by 4 p.m. This allows several hours for the diuretic to work before bedtime.
  • Tell your doctor if you notice any signs of dehydration such as dizziness, extreme thirst, dark urine, low urine output, very dry mouth, or constipation.
  • If your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake, try the following to relieve mild thirst:
  • Snack on frozen grapes.
  • Suck on ice chips (not cubes).
  • Use a flavored lip balm to soften dry lips.
  • Suck on sugarless hard candies.
  • Chew sugarless gum.
  • Weigh yourself every day. Sudden weight gain may indicate that you are retaining fluid and need to adjust the dose of your diuretic.