What are diuretics and why are they used in people with PH?
Diuretics are a type of conventional therapy used to treat people with pulmonary hypertension (PH).
Diuretics are used to treat heart failure or to prevent it developing in the first place, in people with PH. This term sounds frightening, but it does not mean that the heart has failed completely. Heart failure is when the heart is not working as well as it should. This means it is less efficient at pumping blood around the body. Heart failure can occur in some people with PH.
Diuretics are commonly called ‘water tablets’. This is because they work by increasing the amount of urine you produce. Increasing the amount of urine produced leads to less fluid circulating in the blood vessels. This leads to decreased pressure within the blood vessels and makes it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body.
Common diuretics used are:
- furosemide (previously called frusemide)
People taking diuretics should have regular blood tests. These will make sure their kidneys are working properly and the levels of important salts such as sodium and potassium in the bloodstream remain normal.
It is common for people on higher doses of diuretics to check their own body weight regularly. Fluid retention caused by heart failure will increase body weight. Hence an easy way to check for water building up is to look for increases in weight. Likewise we can see if diuretics are effective by looking for weight reduction.
Side effects of diuretics
Diuretics, like all medicines, can cause side effects. Different people will experience different side effects. Your PH specialist team will talk you through the side effects you might get when taking diuretics. If you think your diuretic is causing side effects that are difficult to manage talk to your doctor or PH specialist.