A diuretic is any substance that promotes the production of urine. This includes forced diuresis. There are several categories of diuretics. All diuretics increase the excretion of water from bodies, although each class does so in a distinct way.
- Diuretics are usually taken in tablet form. They are most commonly used in heart conditions or to reduce blood pressure. Heart problems, such as heart failure, can lead to a build-up of fluid in the legs and sometimes in the lungs, leading to breathlessness.
- Diuretics increase the amount of fluid that is removed from the body in the urine, mainly by influencing the kidneys. This decreases the volume of blood in the body, reducing the load on the heart and reducing blood pressure.
- Diuretics do not work on the lymphatic system, and are therefore not generally a treatment for lipoedema or lymphoedema. However, they are sometimes one of the first treatments prescribed by a doctor when someone has leg swelling.
- There are different types of diuretics which work in different ways. Diuretics can be also used to treat liver and kidney problems, in combination with other medications.
What should I do if I am on a diuretic to treat my lipoedema?
If you are taking a diuretic for reasons such as a heart, liver or kidney problem, you should continue with the treatment and check with your doctor if you have any questions.
If you have been prescribed a diuretic for lipoedema swelling you may wish to talk with your doctor about stopping this treatment. We know that some people are on diuretics for many years for lipoedema and lymphoedema, and this may have unwanted effects on the kidneys. It can also mean that protein-rich lymph fluid becomes more concentrated (as the water is removed but not the protein), leading to fibrosis or hardening of the tissues. Some people on a diuretic notice that their mouth (and skin) get very dry, and they have to go to the toilet many times after taking the tablet. Occasionally, a diuretic an upset the levels of substances such as sodium and potassium in the body.
If your doctor agrees that you should stop the diuretic tablet/s, you will usually be advised to cut down slowly, rather than stop immediately. You can then monitor any changes, and go back to your doctor if there are any problems. Alternatively, you may continue on a lower dose.