Edema

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Which diuretics are used to treat edema?

Edema can become a problem in systemic diseases of the heart, liver or kidneys. Diuretic therapy can be initiated, often alleviating the edema. The most potent diuretics are loop diuretics, so-called because they work in the portion of the kidney tubules referred to as the loop of Henle. The kidney tubules are small ducts that regulate salt and water balance, while transporting the forming urine. Clinical loop diuretics available are:

The doses of these diuretics vary depending upon the patient's clinical circumstances. These drugs can be given orally, although seriously ill patients in the hospital may receive them intravenously for more prompt or effective response. If one of the loop diuretics is not effective alone, it may be combined with an agent that works further down (more distally) in the tubule. These agents include the thiazide type diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), or a similar but more potent type of diuretic called metolazone (Zaroxolyn). Other thiazide diuretics include chlorthalidone (Thalitone) methyclothiazide (enduron), chlorthalidone (Hygroton), indapamide (Lozol), and metolazone (Zaroxolyn, Diulo, Mykrox). When diuretics that work at different sites in the kidney are used together, the response often is greater than the combined responses to the individual diuretics (synergistic response).

Do people taking diuretics need a diet high in potassium?

Some diuretics frequently cause an excessive loss of potassium in the urine, leading to the depletion of body potassium. These drugs include the loop diuretics, the thiazide diuretics, and metolazone. Patients on these diuretics are commonly advised to take potassium supplements and/or to eat foods high in potassium. High potassium foods include certain fruits such as:

  • Bananas
  • Orange juice
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes

Patients with impaired kidney function often do not require potassium supplements with diuretics because their damaged kidneys tend to retain potassium. In certain instances, the volume of urine induced by the diuretic can be improved by adding a potassium-sparing diuretic, one that does not cause depletion of potassium. These diuretics include spironolactone (Aldactone), triamterene (Dyrenium, a component of Dyazide), and amiloride (Midamor). Adding one of these diuretics to the patient's diuretic regimen may preclude the need for potassium supplements. Another diuretic that can be used is acetazolamide (Diamox), which counteracts the development of an increased concentration of bicarbonate (too much alkali) in the blood. Increased bicarbonate sometimes occurs in patients receiving other diuretics.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/26/2016

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