Water pills, also known as diuretics, are medicines that flush excess water from the body. They are generally considered safe if the user takes the medication as directed. Diuretics are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, edema, heart failure, and other health problems. Women may take diuretics when they experience water retention.
The most common diuretics prescribed to patients are thiazide, osmotic, loop, and potassium-sparing. Each type of diuretic affects a specific part of the kidneys. When a person takes a diuretic, the pill stimulates the kidneys to flush salt and water from the person's body.
Less sodium and water in the body helps to lower blood pressure, making it easier for the heart to work. Other substances eliminated from the body include magnesium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, and uric acid. Taking a diuretic causes a person to urinate more frequently throughout the day, thereby eliminating water and substances from the kidneys.
A doctor may prescribe water pills to patients, but dosages vary according to a patient's needs. Some patients may take a water pill only two to three times a week. Others may take a diuretic several times a day. Once the patient is administered the medication, the diuretic may begin to work after only an hour has passed.
As with any medication, patients may experience side effects while taking a diuretic. For example, they will experience frequent urination. They may even have to go to the bathroom several times throughout the night. Patients may feel thirstier since a large amount of water is being flushed from the system.
Another side effect may include decreased potassium levels, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat. Some patients who take water pills may experience dizziness, confusion, or mood swings. Rare side effects may include irregular menstrual cycles, deepening of the voice, breast enlargement in both men and women, and increased hair growth.
Before beginning to take a diuretic, the patient should tell the doctor if he or she is taking other medications or supplements. This is because some medicines may cause adverse reactions when used in conjunction with a water pill. Drinking alcohol may also increase the severity of side effects. Some doctors may ask their patients to weigh themselves on a daily basis in order to monitor the amount of water lost while on a diuretic. Doctors will also regularly check a patient's blood pressure and potassium level to ensure that the patient remains in good health.