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What Is Spironolactone?

A doctor may prescribe spironolactone to treat a patient's high blood pressure.
Common side effects of spironolactone include fever and nausea.
Many people who have hypertension are unaware that they suffer from this potentially dangerous medical condition.
Spironolactone can cause missed or late menstrual periods.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 December 2014
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Spironolactone is a prescription drug used to treat edema, hypertension, hypokalemia, and hyperaldosteronism. It is classified as a potassium-sparing diuretic and an aldosterone receptor antagonist. It can stimulate the kidneys to remove excess sodium and fluid from the body, and reduces the body's loss of potassium. Its common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Spironolactone is usually administered by oral tablet, though doses can vary depending upon the condition to be treated.

Spironolactone is typically used to treat hypertension, or high blood pressure, edema, or water retention, and hypokalemia, or low blood potassium. It is also used to diagnose and treat primary hyperaldosteronism, a disorder that causes overproduction of the hormone aldosterone in the body. Spironolactone can help prolong the lives of those with severe heart failure.

Spironolactone works by blocking the body's aldosterone receptors, which is why it is classed as an aldosterone receptor antagonist. Aldosterone is the hormone that regulates water retention in the body. Blocking this hormone can increase the amount of sodium and water that the body excretes via the kidneys. Because spironolactone can block aldosterone receptors in the body, it can also help treat hyperaldosteronism, a disorder in which the body produces too much aldosterone hormone. While spironolactone can't stop the body from overproducing aldosterone, it can stop that excess aldosterone from having an effect on the body.

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Spironolactone's most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. The drug can also cause erectile dysfunction, problems with menstruation such as missing or late periods, confusion, headache, and fever. Lethargy and drowsiness are also common side effects.

Like many prescription drugs, spironolactone can cause serious side effects that signal the appearance of a medical complication due to use of the drug. Those who use spironolactone are generally advised to seek medical help immediately if they experience any of the serious side effects of the drug, such as muscle weakness, burning or tingling sensations, low heart rate, breast enlargement in men, and breast lumps in women.

Spironolactone is typically administered by an oral tablet. A 400 milligram daily dose of spironolactone, administed for three to four weeks, can help to diagnose hyperaldosteronism by improving the symptoms of the disease. Spironolactone can treat hyperaldosteronism in the long term in doses of 100 to 400 milligrams per day.

A dose of 25 to 50 milligram of spironolactone per day is typically advised to treat heart failure. Doses for treating water retention can range from 25 to 200 milligrams per day. Doses for treating high blood pressure can range from 50 to 100 milligrams per day. Doses for treating hypokalemia can range from 25 to 100 milligrams per day.

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