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Why Don't Water Pills Work Anymore?

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
Why Don't Water Pills Work Anymore?
water pills Photo Credit: raweenuttapong/iStock/Getty Images

Water pills or diuretics are used to treat a number of conditions that affect your body’s ability to properly regulate fluid intake. This includes congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and body swelling known as edema. Water pills are available over the counter or by prescription and work in different ways to stimulate the kidneys to release water. Because water pills are prescribed for serious medical conditions, ensuring they work properly is important for your health. If you suspect your water pill is not working like it once did, there may be a few explanations.

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Lifestyle Factors

Although diuretics help to override your kidney functioning, there are some lifestyle factors that can interfere with your water pill’s ability to work. This includes eating a high-sodium diet and drinking too much water, that can affect your body’s ability to absorb the diuretic medication. Other lifestyle factors, including smoking and drinking alcohol, also can affect diuretic absorption. Talk to your physician about steps you can take to reduce these lifestyle behaviors to improve the effectiveness of your water pills. Determining a proper fluid intake can be the first step in achieving better water pill function.

Water Pills Aren't Strong Enough

Over-the-counter medications and potassium-sparing diuretics, which are considered the mildest diuretic form, may not be effective enough in treating severe edema or water retention. However, potassium-sparing diuretics may be necessary if you have conditions like high blood pressure or heart failure. This is because more powerful diuretic forms can reduce potassium, a mineral needed to perform muscle movements, like your heart beating.

The Right Pill Type

Three types of prescription water pills exist: thiazide diuretics, potassium-sparing diuretics or loop-acting diuretics. Each acts on a different part of your kidneys, meaning some pills may work more effectively than other depending upon your unique medical condition. If your diuretic doesn’t seem to be working anymore, your physician may recommend another medication type.

Taking Other Medications

Before beginning to take diuretics, inform your physician of all the medicines and supplements you are taking. While certain medications heighten the effects of diuretics, others can make them less effective. Examples of medications that interfere with water pills include digitalis, digoxin, antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, lithium and cyclosoporine. Always discuss the potential for drug interactions with your physician and pharmacist to ensure you will not experience adverse side effects.

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