Diuretics

Learn about diuretics, a type of medicine that can lower your blood pressure and slow down kidney damage.
Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
February 12, 2024

What are diuretics?

Diuretics are medicines that lower your blood pressure, remove extra fluid from your body, and help your kidneys get rid of salt and water. They are also called water pills.  

Diuretics are used for people with: 

  • High blood pressure 
  • Heart failure 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Liver disease 
  • Fluid buildup in their bodies 

What are the types of diuretics?

Thiazide diuretics, examples include: 

  • Hydrochlorothiazide 
  • Chlorthalidone 
  • Chlorothiazide 
  • Indapamide 
  • Metolazone 

Loop diuretics, examples include: 

  • Furosemide 
  • Bumetanide 
  • Ethacrynic acid 
  • Torsemide 

Potassium-sparing diuretics, examples include: 

  • Amiloride 
  • Triamterene 
  • Eplerenone 
  • Spironolactone

How do diuretics slow down the damage to my kidneys?

Diuretics can slow down the damage to your kidneys by lowering your blood pressure. Here is how this works: 

  1. Kidney disease can cause your body to hold on to salt and water, which can raise your blood pressure. 
  2. High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys, causing them to not work as well. 
  3. Diuretics help your body get rid of extra salt and water from your blood.  
  4. This lowers the amount of fluid flowing through your blood vessels, which lowers your blood pressure. 

 

The 3 types of diuretics work slightly differently. They all help your kidneys get rid of extra salt and water through your urine, but can have other different effects: 

  • Thiazide diuretics work on the part of the kidneys that handle potassium and calcium; they cause you to lose more potassium in the urine and hold on to calcium in the blood.  
  • Loop diuretics help a specific part of your kidney, called the loop of Henle, get rid of extra salt and water from your body; these medications cause the most salt and water to pass into the urine and also cause you to lose potassium in the urine 
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics help your kidneys get rid of extra salt and water through your urine (pee), but without losing too much potassium. 

What are some common side effects of diuretics?

Some common side effects of diuretics include: 

  • Urinating (peeing) more often 
  • Feeling dizzy 
  • Headaches 
  • Low potassium, which can cause weakness or muscles cramps 

 

It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about medication and medication management questions you have.