Diuretics for Heart Failure

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Diuretics for Heart Failure


Thiazide diuretics

Generic NameBrand Name

Loop diuretics

Generic NameBrand Name

Potassium-sparing diuretics

Generic Name

Aldosterone receptor antagonists, such as spironolactone, are another type of potassium-sparing diuretic used for heart failure. For more information on this medicine, see Aldosterone Receptor Antagonists: Diuretics for Heart Failure.

How It Works

Diuretics stimulate the kidneys to remove more water and salt (sodium) from the body. This can help relieve swelling that happens because of heart failure.

Why It Is Used

These medicines are used if you have heart failure symptoms of fluid buildup (such as difficulty breathing or swelling in your legs and ankles). Diuretics are often used with ACE inhibitors and may be combined with other medicines.

Another type of diuretic called an aldosterone receptor antagonist may be an option for some people who have heart failure.

How Well It Works

Diuretics help rid the body of extra fluid and sodium. They can help relieve some symptoms of heart failure such as swelling in the legs.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of changes in potassium levels:

  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth or increased thirst
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle cramps or pain
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, or lips

Other side effects of this medicine include:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Stomach aches.
  • Nausea.
  • Sensitive skin to sunlight.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

You may feel more tired or need to urinate more often when you start taking this medicine. These effects typically occur less after you have taken the medicine for a while. If the increase in urine interferes with your sleep or daily activities, ask your doctor to help you plan a schedule for taking the medicine.

Ask your doctor if you need to take a potassium supplement or if you need to watch the amount of potassium in your diet. If you take a loop diuretic or thiazide diuretic, your doctor may suggest you get extra potassium because these medicines lower your potassium levels. But if you take a potassium-sparing diuretic, you do not need to get extra potassium in your diet.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


You will likely have regular doctor visits to check the potassium levels in your blood.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Drugs for treatment of chronic heart failure (2009). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 7(83): 53–56.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Theresa O'Young, PharmD - Clinical Pharmacy
Last Revised October 14, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.