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Water Pill Side Effects

author image Anna Aronson
Anna Aronson began working as a journalist in 2000 and spent six years at suburban Chicago newspapers before pursuing freelance work. She enjoys writing about health care topics, in particular obstetrics, pediatrics and nutrition. She received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and is now studying for a Master of Science in medicine degree to become a physician's assistant.
Water Pill Side Effects
Man holding white pills and glass of water


Water pills, also known as diuretics, are a type of medication designed to reduce the amount of water and salt in the body. Three types of water pills are available: thiazide, loop-acting and potassium-sparing diuretics. Although the mechanisms by which they work are different, all are effective at reducing the amount of water and salt in the body, according to the Texas Heart Institute. Among the conditions water pills are commonly used to treat are edema, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, glaucoma and certain kidney and liver problems, according to the Texas Heart Institute.

Increased Urination

One of the most common side effect of water pills is increased urination, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is most common in people taking loop-acting diuretics, and in some cases it resolves itself after taking the medication for a few weeks.

Blood Test Side Effects

Diuretics can affect the amount of potassium in a person's bloodstream. People taking potassium-sparing diuretics can have a high potassium level, while taking thiazide diuretics can develop a low potassium level. Another possible side effect of water pills is an increase in a person's cholesterol level and blood sugar levels, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Both thiazide and loop-acting diuretics can make a person's blood sugar level higher, a condition that is particularly dangerous for diabetics. Taking diuretics can also cause a person's blood sodium level to drop too low, a condition called hyponatremia.

Light Sensitivity

An increased sensitivity to light is a side effect associated with taking thiazide diuretics, according to the Texas Heart Institute.

Sexual Side Effects

Men taking diuretics may experience impotence or a decrease in sexual desire, although this effect is rare, according to the Texas Heart Institute. Some men also develop breast enlargement. Another possible side effect of water pills in abdominal pain or cramps, which can sometimes be accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea.

Menstrual Changes

Women who take water pills can experience menstrual irregularities such as changes to their regular menstrual cycle.


Some people taking water pills can develop gout, a painful form of arthritis that typically develops in the joints in the toes and feet. General joint pain can also be a side effect of diuretics.


Dizziness and lightheadedness have also been reported as side effects linked to use of diuretics.

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