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Most likely your doctor has prescribed diuretic medication to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), congestive heart failure, edema (water retention), or certain kidney and liver diseases.

There are three main types of diuretics: (1) thiazides, (2) potassium-sparing, and (3) loop-acting. They each work somewhat differently, but in general, diuretics increase the excretion of sodium and water from the body. They are sometimes known as "water pills". The amount of sodium and water excreted depends on the dosage and how the medication works.

Thiazides increase the excretion of sodium, chloride and water. Thiazides also dilate the blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure.

Potassium-sparing diuretics reduce sodium re-absorption and potassium excretion. These are weaker diuretics and are often used in conjunction with thiaz ides.

Loop diuretics limit sodium re-absorption and cause the largest sodium and water excretion. They also limit the re-absorption of magnesium and calcium which may necessitate taking supplements.

What are the potential side effects of this medication?
The potential side effects of diuretics include: twitching, spasms, rash, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. You may feel lightheaded or dizzy. A rare side effect is the development of an arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm).

You may experience impotence and/or a decreased desire for sex. This situation is reversible with the cessation of the medication.

Are there any risks or dangers associated with this medication?
If you are taking diuretics, you may become dehydrated. Some diuretics cause a loss of potassium. You may be required to take supplements. If you experience a substantial loss of potassium without supplementation, the situation may life threatening.

Is there anyone who should not take this medication?
If you have a tendency to become dehydrated, if you are immobile and cannot get to water easily, or if you have abnormal kidney functioning, you should take diuretics with caution .

If you are a nursing mothers, particularly of newborns your doctor may recommend that you refrain from using diuretics.

If you have diabetes, you should be cautious when taking Thiazide diuretics because they may increase your blood sugar levels. You may need to take a higher dose of insulin. Consult with your physician.

You should also be cautious about taking Thiazides if you have gout or are at high risk for developing this condition.

Are there any medicines which I should not take in conjunction with diuretics?
If you are taking Digitalis and your potassium level is low, your doctor may recommend that you refrain from taking a diuretic medication.

If I am taking this medication, is there anything I must do (e.g. take it with food)? Is there anything I must not do?
Timing is important. Most people choose to take their diuretic medication in the morning. Some find it best to take it early in the evening, but not right before bed time.

If you have heart failure, your doctor may recommend that you weigh yourself frequently, at the beginning of diuretic therapy, then as often as recommended by your physician. Call your physician if you have a weight loss or gain of 5 pounds in a week.

Your doctor may advise you concerning your intake of sodium and fluids. You may be asked to cut down on foods which are high in salt.

Are there any other medications which have the same or similar effect as this medication?
There are other medications which may treat your condition, although they will work differently than diuretics.

Are there any natural remedies which have the same or similar effect as this medication?
Coffee, tea and some juices can act as diuretics. They are not effective enough to substitute for medication. Consult with your physician.

Can I take a generic version of this medication?

Is there an over-the-counter version of this medication?

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