Published on August 29, 2013 at 8:00 / Updated on April 16, 2020 at 14:50

A diuretic is a substance that increases water and salt elimination from the body (diuresis). These substances increase the amount of urine produced by the kidneys. They may be of natural origin, such as some foods, alcohol or caffeine, or laboratory-made, such as drugs.

All diuretic drugs act on the kidneys, because it is this organ that is responsible for controlling body water content. Depending on where exactly they act, some are more potent than others, meaning that they eliminate more or less water. Diuretic selection, therefore, is based on the severity of the person's condition.

Unlike drugs, alcohol and caffeine do not act directly on the kidneys.

When are diuretics indicated?

Diuretics are mainly used to treat certain types of heart problems. They are also used to treat certain liver problems and for glaucoma. Since they reduce edema (swelling), sometimes they are wrongly used for losing weight .

When blood contains too much water, its total volume increases. This causes the heart to work more. In people with heart failure, the heart is already tired and cannot "pump" all the extra blood properly. Some blood tends to accumulate in the extremities, for example the ankles, and sometimes in the lungs, causing shortness of breath. In addition, the extra volume of blood in the arteries causes an increase in arterial pressure.

Diuretics reduce the heart's workload and reduce arterial pressure by promoting the elimination of excess water in the blood.

Are diuretic herbal teas effective?

Although some herbal teas have diuretic properties, they are not potent enough to control edema (swelling), much less a heart problem.

What precautions should be followed when taking diuretics?

Because all diuretics promote water elimination, they all increase urine output and thus can worsen urinary incontinence. Therefore take diuretics as early in the day as possible, so as not to have to get up during the night.

In addition, even when diuretics are not used to treat hypertension, they all tend to bring blood pressure down slightly. To avoid dizziness, sit down and get up more slowly, especially during the first week of therapy.

Do diuretics have unwanted side effects?

YES. Diuretics not only promote the elimination of water and sodium (salt), but also of potassium. When blood potassium levels are too low, people may experience leg cramps, dryness of the mouth, or cardiac palpitations. For this reason, people who take diuretics often receive a prescription for potassium supplements as well, that is, unless the prescribed diuretic contains a special molecule that prevents potassium loss.

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