Edema - Effective Treatments

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What kinds of treatments have been effective for edema?

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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:

  • furosemide (Lasix),
  • torsemide (Demadex), and
  • butethamine (Bumex).

The doses of these diuretics vary depending upon the 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). 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).

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.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: duchess48, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 06

In response to the patient who used ginkgo biloba, I have read info from Kaiser that says that the herb can interfere with diabetes meds so be careful in using it. I have suffered from pitting edema in my feet and legs for a year, and the only thing Kaiser has said is to elevate them and use Lasix and keep compression on them. None of them is a permanent solution.

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Comment from: puzzled, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: December 30

I have had edema in my legs for 2 years and had all kinds of tests done but the doctors can't give a solid answer other than that gravity is doing it. Now I came down with a severe cold or flu, so I started taking antibiotics 2 days ago. Now suddenly I can see my calves and ankles again. I don't understand I'm guessing maybe I had some type of infection in my legs the whole time.

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