Side Effects of Diuretics Prescribed For Hypertension

Salt makes your heart work harder and increases blood pressure. Doctors often prescribe a diuretic for someone who has hypertension. Diuretics, which are also known as water pills, help to rid the body of salt.

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and am very salt sensitive. When I go out to eat I pay a price later -- puffy eyelids, chipmunk cheeks, swollen knees and ankles. Getting rid of this extra salt can take days. My doctor prescribed a diuretic for me and I am acquainted with its side effects.

At night, I have gotten painful cramps in my calves. One day I got a debilitating cramp in my thigh. The cramp lasted all day and was so painful I cried. If I tried to extend my leg or get in bed, the cramp would hit again. Walking forwards hurt terribly, so I walked backwards. I also slept sitting up for five days.

Mayo Clinic tells how water pills work in a website article, "Diuretics." There are three types of diuretics: thiazide, loop, and potassium-sparing. "They work by making your kidneys put more sodium in your urine," explains Mayo. Thiazde is usually the first choice for hypertension and this is the diuretic I take. Side effects of diuretics include low sodium, increased blood sugar, higher cholesterol, rash, and gout, according to Mayo Clinic.

"High Blood Pressure and Diuretics," an article on the WebMD website, lists more side effects. The list is impressive: frequent urination, extreme tiredness, muscle cramps, dizziness, and irregular heart beats. I have had irregular beats when I was sitting quietly on the couch, reading the newspaper.

Dehydration, especially dry mouth, is another side effect. So is dizziness and I had my first spell this morning. A MedicineNet article, "Generic Name: Thiazide Diuretics," says it takes time for the body to adjust to this medication. During the first few days you may experience dizziness and lightheadedness. "Rise slowly from a seated or lying position," the article advises.

According to the article, thiazide can also make you lose your appetite and upset your stomach. What can be done about these side effects?

1. Watch for them. Jot down the side effect or effects in a notebook, along with the date and time. Be alert to these side effects.

2. Consider timing. According to the WebMD article, if you take one pill a day, you may want to take it in the morning to avoid interrupted sleep at night.

3. Contact your doctor if side effects worsen. If you have an allergic reaction to the diuretic -- rash, itching, swelling, dizziness, breathing problems -- get medical help right away.

4. Monitor blood pressure. Take your pressure every day and record it in your diary.

Thanks to modern medicine, there are ways to control hypertension. While some doctors thnk thiazide has cumulative effect on the body, others disagree, and more research is needed. Be smart. Follow your doctor's advice, take medicine as prescribed, and note the side effects. Your health and longevity depend on these things.

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for decades. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of Health Care Journalists, and Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, "Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief," written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.

Centering Corporation has published her 26th book, "Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life" and a companion journal with 100 writing prompts. Please visit Harriet's websie and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.

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