Water Retention Pills: 5 Medications Your Doctor May Prescribe

Updated in January 2024

Water retention pills are drugs that promote the excretion of water through the kidneys by triggering increased salt elimination and decreased  salt reabsorption in the renal tubules.  By reducing the amount of fluid circulating in the bloodstream, blood pressure and swelling from water retention can also be reduced.

Furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide or spironolactone are examples of water retention drugs, also referred to as diuretics. They are prescribed to treat problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure and swelling in the ankles, feet and legs. These conditions can cause changes in heart functioning, or diseases of the liver or kidneys.

There are different types of water retention pills that can be used to treat swelling, which include potassium-sparing diuretics, thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors or osmotic diuretics, although the latter two are used less frequently. Diuretics should only be used under the supervision of a doctor, as the type of diuretic should be adapted to the specific purpose of the treatment.

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Medicine for swelling

The most commonly prescribed water retention pills are:

1. Furosemide

Furosemide (Lasix) is a loop diuretic and is prescribed for the treatment of hypertension and swelling caused by diseases in the heart, liver or kidneys. It can also be prescribed for swelling of the brain or swelling caused by burns.

The recommended doses should be bel outlined by the doctor, as dosing depends on the problem being treated.

2. Hydrochlorothiazide

Hydrochlorothiazide is a thiazide diuretic (Aquazide, Hydrocot, Microzide) that is prescribed for managing blood pressure and treating swelling caused by heart problems, cirrhosis, and diabetes insipidus. It can also be taken to prevent the formation of calcium oxalate stones in the kidneys. The doctor may prescribe doses from 25 to 200 mg a day. depending on the condition being treated.

3. Spironolactone

Spironolactone (Aldactone) is a potassium-sparing diuretic and is prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure and swelling caused by problems related to impaired heart, liver or kidney function. However, its effect is weak, ad is therefore usually combined with other diuretics, such as thiazides, to boost their effect.

In general, doses of between 50 and 200 mg a day are prescribed, depending on the doctor's instructions.

4. Amiloride

Amiloride (Midamor) is also a potassium-sparing diuretic and is usually combined with hydrochlorothiazide to treat high blood pressure. It helps to reduce swelling in the ankles, feet and legs caused by heart problems, and also treats ascites, which is the accumulation of water in the abdomen caused by cirrhosis.

The genera recommended dose is one 50 mg/5 mg tablet per day, however the dose may vary according to the condition being treated.

5. Hydrochlorothiazide and spironolactone

This is a combination of 2 different types of diuretic (Aldazide), and is prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure and swelling caused by diseases or problems with the heart, liver or kidneys. 

Generally, doses range from half a tablet to 2 tablets of 50 mg + 50 mg a day, although this depends on the problem to be treated. 

How to take

Water retention pills should only be taken as directed by a cardiologist. When used incorrectly, they can cause an electrolyte imbalance and lead to symptoms such as excessive tiredness, nausea, weakness and convulsions.

Other problems can also arise if taken incorrectly, such as dehydration or cardiac arrhythmias.

There are also natural diuretics, such as green tea, or diuretic foods, such as celery, cucumber or lemon, which have a similar effect to medicines, but with fewer health risks. See a more complete list of some natural diuretics.

However, natural diuretics should not substitute medication prescribed by a doctor and their use in combination with medication can be life-threatening, which is why it is important to consult your doctor before starting to use a natural diuretic.