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Retaining Fluid While Taking Diuretics

author image Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Retaining Fluid While Taking Diuretics
Woman in a blue t-shirt sitting on the couch with a glass of water prepares to take a pill. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

The balance of fluid in your body is primarily controlled by your kidneys. Diuretics are medications used to stimulate urine excretion and often are used as a treatment for excessive fluid retention. However, in some cases diuretics will not be effective at treating excess fluid and may make the problem worse.

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Fluid Retention

Your body may retain excess fluid for a variety of reasons. Most of the time fluid retention is due to blood leaking from your blood vessels to the space around your cells, also known as your extracellular space. If you have excess fluid in your blood it can promote water retention. Sometimes this can be caused by changes in the amount of water excreted by your kidneys, but it can also be caused by other conditions, such as hormonal changes.


Diuretics are medications that are used to treat glaucoma, high blood pressure and fluid retention or edema. Diuretics work by stimulating the excretion of fluid by your kidneys. Most diuretics work by stimulating the exrcetion of sodium and other electrolytes into your urine, which causes more water to be eliminated via your urine as well. Diuretics are an effective way to reduce the amount of fluid in your body but they can cause electrolyte imbalances.

Fluid Retention Despite Diuretics

In some cases, fluid retention will not respond well to diuretic therapy. Diuretics are not an effective treatment for a type of fluid retention known as idiopathic cyclic edema. In fact, taking diuretics for this condition can make the retention worse. It is not known what causes this condition, but it is associated with hypothyroidism, obesity and diabetes mellitus. This condition often occurs before menstruation and is more common in young women.


If you have fluid retention that doesn't respond to diuretics, one potential treatment is to limit the amount of sodium in your diet. High sodium levels in your blood can cause your body to retain more water. Another type of medication, known as an ACE inhibitor, may also be effective. Talk to your doctor before attempting any sort of treatment for fluid retention, as in some cases retaining fluid can be a sign of a more serious underlying disease.

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