Heart failure causes fluid to build up in the body. Doctors may suggest that a person living with the condition take diuretics, which are medications that help the body release excess fluids.

Heart failure is a chronic condition in which a person’s heart cannot pump enough blood around the body to support other organs. It is a serious condition that may cause a range of complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that around 6.2 million adults in the United States have heart failure. It also highlights that heart disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and heart failure falls under the umbrella of heart disease.

Treatment for heart failure may involve a combination of several approaches, including lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery.

Diuretics are a type of medication that helps the body release excess fluids and salt through urination. Doctors may prescribe diuretics to people with heart failure to help manage their symptoms.

This article discusses why doctors may prescribe diuretics for heart failure, how they work, examples of diuretics, and possible side effects they may cause. The article also explores other treatments for heart failure and when to consult a doctor.

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Heart failure causes a range of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling around the body. Most symptoms of heart failure are due to reduced blood flow to the organs and fluid buildup in the body.

The reduced blood flow around the body causes congestion in the blood vessels, as the flow of blood through the heart is too slow. This congestion leads to fluid buildup in certain blood vessels, which can leak into bodily tissues and cause various symptoms.

Diuretics can reduce the buildup of fluid around the body and lessen the heart’s workload.

Diuretics, or “water pills,” are a type of medication that helps the body get rid of fluids and salt through urination. There are three types of diuretics that work differently to remove fluids and salt from the body:

  • Thiazide diuretics: These drugs cause a person to produce more urine with more salt.
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics: These drugs, including amiloride, reduce the amount of fluid but not potassium in the body. Other types of diuretics may cause a person’s potassium levels to decrease.
  • Loop-acting diuretics: These drugs affect the transport of salt and water across cells in the kidneys, causing them to produce more urine, which helps flush out more fluids and salt from the body.

Diuretics are currently a first-line treatment for people with heart failure. The exact type of diuretics that a doctor may prescribe will depend on several factors, such as the severity of a person’s symptoms, other conditions they have, and other types of medications they are taking.

Some examples of diuretics that a doctor might prescribe include:

Diuretics may cause side effects in some people. Common side effects of diuretics include:

Diuretics can also increase the risk of further heart problems, such as arrhythmias, if they cause levels of certain electrolytes to fall too low, such as potassium and magnesium.

Drug interactions

Diuretics may interact with other medications, as well as herbal or vitamin supplements. Examples of drugs that may interact with some diuretics include:

A person should speak with their doctor about any medications and supplements they are taking to determine the potential risk of drug interactions.

Doctors may use a combination of treatments to treat heart failure. This may include taking other drugs alongside or instead of diuretics, such as:

  • ACE inhibitors, such as captopril
  • angiotensin II receptor blockers, such as candesartan
  • angiotensin-receptor neprilysin inhibitors, such as sacubitril
  • If channel blockers, such as ivabradine
  • beta-blockers, such as metoprolol
  • aldosterone antagonists, such as spironolactone

Other treatments and lifestyle changes for heart failure may include:

  • reducing the amount of salt in a person’s diet
  • drinking less liquid
  • exercising daily
  • using devices that remove excess fluids and salt from the blood
  • undergoing surgery, such as a heart transplant

People should speak with their doctor about which treatment options may work best for them.

Heart failure is a serious condition. Anyone experiencing potential symptoms should speak with a doctor as soon as possible. Alongside taking diuretics, people with heart failure may need other long-term treatments. This may require regular trips to the doctor for checkups and to report any changes.

A person should report any side effects from diuretics or other medications to a doctor. People should also ensure that their doctor knows about all medications they are taking, as well as any herbal and vitamin supplements.

Heart failure is when the heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body. The reduced blood flow causes fluid to build up in the blood vessels and leak into tissues, causing several symptoms.

Diuretics are a treatment that reduces the levels of fluids and salt in the body through urination. Doctors may prescribe diuretics to someone with heart failure to manage their symptoms. Diuretics can interact with other medications and may also cause some side effects, such as weakness and cramping.

A person with heart failure should speak with a healthcare professional to find out which treatments may work best for them.