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Over-the-Counter Diuretics for Edema

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Diuretics, commonly referred to as water pills, are medications that help the kidneys remove excess water and salt from the body by increasing urine output. Water pills lead to overall less fluid in the blood vessels, which helps to lower blood pressure. Therefore, a diuretic medication is commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure. Besides hypertension (high blood pressure), diuretics are also used in heart failure patients to reduce edema (swelling). When someone has heart disease, such as congestive heart failure, their heart does not pump blood efficiently throughout their body, leading to fluid retention; therefore, diuretics help to treat swelling and reduce water weight.    

In this article, we will talk about some over-the-counter water pills and herbal remedies that can help to control fluid buildup, reduce swelling, and lose weight.

What is the best diuretic for edema?

If you have swelling or edema in any part of the body, you should consult a health professional who can identify the cause of the swelling and treat it appropriately. 

Mild edema, such as that caused by premenstrual syndrome, usually goes away on its own. One way to alleviate swelling is to raise the affected body part above the level of the heart. For example, if you have swollen feet, raising your feet on a couple of pillows while lying down may help. 

More severe edema may need to be treated with medications such as diuretics, which help the body get rid of excess water through urine. One of the most commonly prescribed diuretics (water pills) is furosemide (Lasix). Keep in mind that there are different types of diuretics, and your doctor will determine which type of diuretic is appropriate to treat your edema, depending on the cause as well as your other health conditions.

That the management of edema usually involves treating the underlying cause of the fluid buildup. For example, if the extra fluid is a side effect of a medication, your doctor may adjust the dose or switch to another drug that doesn’t cause fluid retention. 

What are the different types of diuretics or water pills?

Thiazide Diuretics

These water pills help the body get rid of moderate amounts of fluid. Thiazide and thiazide-like diuretics can be used long-term to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) because they relax the blood vessels in addition to removing excess fluid. Examples include hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) and chlorthalidone. Hydrochlorothiazide is a component of many combination pills used to reduce blood pressure, such as Zestoretic (lisinopril/HCTZ) and Maxzide (triamterene/HCTZ). 

Loop Diuretics

These water pills have a more powerful diuretic effect than thiazide diuretics. They are used in situations that require more emergent diuresis and to manage kidney disease (nephrotic syndrome), heart failure, and liver cirrhosis. This type of diuretic is not recommended for the treatment of high blood pressure, though it can still be used depending on the patient’s medical information history and the physician’s clinical judgment. The issue with loop diuretics is that they can lead to a loss of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium from the blood. This can result in low levels of sodium, potassium, and dehydration. Also, loop diuretics can be hard on the kidneys, so you need regular blood tests to monitor kidney function while taking them. Your doctor may recommend eating potassium-rich foods, or they may prescribe salt substitutes or a potassium supplement while you are on a loop diuretic. Examples of this type of water pill include torsemide, furosemide (Lasix), and bumetanide (Bumex). 

Potassium-sparing Diuretics

Unlike thiazide and loop diuretics, potassium-sparing water pills allow the body to retain potassium while getting rid of water and salt. However, these drugs can cause hyperkalemia (high potassium levels), so you need regular blood tests to keep an eye on potassium levels while taking diuretics. Examples of potassium-sparing diuretics include spironolactone (Aldactone), eplerenone (Inspra), amiloride (Midamor), and triamterene (Dyrenium). 

Your doctor may prescribe a potassium-sparing diuretic alone or in combination with other medications. Also, water pills can be combined with other medications, sometimes in the same pill. Similar to thiazide diuretics, this type of diuretics can be found in combination pills. 

Can you get over-the-counter diuretics?

The diuretic medications mentioned above are all prescription medications, so you can’t purchase them over the counter. However, there are several OTC products available that have a diuretic effect. Most of these OTC products contain pamabrom or caffeine, which acts as a natural diuretic.

OTC water pills can treat health issues like bloating or swelling that present with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, they should not be used at high doses or as a replacement for prescription diuretics. Also, you should not combine OTC products with a diuretic effect with prescription diuretics unless your doctor says it is okay.

What are some natural diuretics?

Some dietary supplements and herbs have diuretic properties, i.e., they can help you get rid of excess fluid that cause water weight. Examples include ginger, dandelion, parsley, hibiscus, caraway, hawthorn, green tea, and juniper. 

However, these herbal remedies should not be used to treat medical conditions like high blood pressure and fluid retention. Rather than treating it yourself with a natural diuretic, it is important to have fluid retention evaluated by a medical professional who can determine the possible causes and prescribe the proper treatment. 

You should know that some herbs can cause worsening of your medical problems or have interactions with your other drugs. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking a herbal diuretic.

Last but not least, the health benefits and diuretic effects of natural diuretics are not supported by strong scientific evidence, so you may find they are not very effective, especially with long-term use.

If your goal is weight loss (losing water weight) or treating water retention related to menstruation, you should aim to eat a healthy diet, cut back on salt in your diet, and get regular exercise rather than relying on the diuretic effects of herbal supplements. If you do decide to take some natural remedies for water retention, talk to your doctors or wellness professionals before you do so. Natural diuretics that help you get rid of more sodium and water may not be very effective and do more harm than good.



  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/water-retention/faq-20058063#