Edema is a symptom of certain underlying health disorders such as heart, kidney and liver problems. It may also occur as a side effect of certain drugs. Treating the underlying cause of edema or stopping use of drugs that trigger fluid build-up in the body tissues heals edema naturally.
To eliminate the excess fluid accumulating in the body, diuretics or water pills are widely recommended by doctors.
Medications To Treat Edema
Medications classified as loop diuretics include furosemide (Lasix), bumetanide, torsemide and ethacrynic acid. They are most effective in treating edema that occurs when the pumping action of the heart weakens. They are recommended for treating pulmonary edema that develops when fluid accumulates in the lungs. They are also used for treating edema associated with certain kidney and liver diseases. Occasionally, loop diuretics are used for reducing high blood pressure. By inhibiting absorption of salt in the part of the kidneys known as the loop of Henle, they increase urine output.
The effect of a single dose of the drug usually lasts for about six hours. Loop diuretics are considered safe when used in small doses as directed by the physician. Excess urination may disturb the electrolyte balance in the blood. Diabetics and gout patients should use these drugs with caution. Dizziness and stomach upset are other possible side effects of these water pills. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce the efficacy of loop diuretics.
Medications that belong to the category of drugs known as thiazide diuretics include chlorthalidone, chlorothiazide, hydrochlorothiazide, metolazone, indapamide, hydroflumethiazide and methylclothiazide. Although classified as a diuretic, these medications are not as effective as loop diuretics in increasing urine output. Physicians sometimes prescribe thiazide diuretics for treating edema in people with mild congestive heart failure.
As small to moderate doses of the drugs are usually used for treatment, they rarely produce any side effects. They tend to increase the blood sugar level. Diuretics may increase the risk of gout attacks. Salt imbalance is a possible side effect of these drugs, which may cause confusion and weakness. Fall in the blood pressure level may cause dizziness. NSAIDs, corticosteroids and beta-blockers may interact with these drugs.
Potassium-sparing diuretics are divided into two categories – sodium channel inhibitors and aldosterone receptor antagonists. Amioloride and triamterene are two sodium channel blockers used for treating edema. Aldosterone receptor inhibitors used as diuretics include spironolactone and eplerenone. Potassium-sparing diuretics are occasionally taken alone. They are usually taken in combination with another diuretic usually a loop diuretic for treating edema.
By inhibiting potassium secretion, they help to counter the strong potassium lowering effect of loop diuretics. They are often prescribed to congestive heart failure patients. Hyperkalemia or an abnormally high level of potassium in the blood is a severe side effect of potassium-sparing diuretics that usually occurs when these drugs are taken alone. Reduced tolerance to glucose, headache, nausea, vomiting and renal stones are other possible side effects of these drugs. Aldosterone receptor inhibitors may cause impotence and gynecomastia. NSAIDs may retard the efficacy of these drugs. ACE inhibitors may worsen hyperkalemia when taken with potassium-sparing diuretics.