Diuretics or water pills are the type of drug initially preferred for high blood pressure or hypertension. Your doctor may recommend it along with natural remedies for high blood pressure as an initial treatment.
Diuretics are drugs that elevate the rate of urine excretion (diuresis). There are several classes of diuretics but all increase the excretion of excess water from the body in different ways. The antihypertensive actions of diuretics like thiazides and loop diuretics are not due to the reduced volume of blood resulting from increased urine production. Their effect on hypertension is through other mechanisms and at lower doses than required for diuresis.
Like all allopathic medicines, diuretics have side effects. High blood pressure medication, in most cases, has to be taken for a prolonged period, often for life. Despite being a first choice medication for high blood pressure, tolerance to the side effects of diuretics needs to be taken into account before prescribing them.
Diuretics normally reduce the supply of potassium in the body, which leads to weakness, cramps and fatigue. Potassium sparing diuretics like spironolactone, amiloride or triamterene do not cause the body to lose potassium. These may be prescribed alone or in conjunction with other diuretics. Food containing potassium or liquid or oral supplements are mostly sufficient to compensate any significant loss of potassium. Any supplement plan as long as you are on diuretics should only be started under the guidance of your doctor because potassium should not be taken with certain diuretics.
Although not very common, a prolonged treatment with diuretics causes attacks of gout in some people. While gout can be managed with other treatments, it can cause a fair amount of discomfort. Postural hypotension, the sudden drop in blood pressure on shifting to a standing position from sitting, is more common in the elderly and people on diuretics.
In diabetic patients, the effects of diuretics have to be closely monitored. Diuretics can raise blood sugar levels. This is usually corrected with change in the drug or adjustments with insulin dosage. However, the degree of increase in blood sugar levels due to diuretics is not much and not a cause of worry. However, it does make regular check ups a necessity.
Whether you are a man or a woman, high blood pressure can adversely affect your sex life. At the same time some of the drugs used to treat blood pressure actually improve sexual function. Unfortunately, diuretics can sap a person’s sex drive and may cause erectile dysfunction. If the problem with erectile dysfunction continues, your doctor is the best judge to see whether he can change the medicine to solve your erectile problems.
The side effects of diuretics are easily manageable and less problematic than high blood pressure. Chronic hypertension can prove to be life threatening if neglected and should be treated as soon as it is known that you have high blood pressure.