There are pros and cons to taking diuretics for hypertension. Diuretics help remove excess water and salt from the body, which in some cases can bring down a person's blood pressure. The pills are usually the first type of medication prescribed to treat hypertension, because their side effects are milder than other hypertension medications. They are also usually much less expensive than other hypertension medications. Drawbacks include potential side effects such as dehydration, a feeling of dizziness, and the need to urinate frequently, especially right after taking the pills.
Thiazide diuretics are often prescribed for hypertension. While thiazide diuretics for hypertension can remove the sodium causing a person's high blood pressure, a side effect of this is that they also cause the body to lose potassium, which it needs to function properly. If a person doesn't get enough potassium, he can develop an irregular heartbeat. To counteract the loss of potassium, a person may need to make sure he eats plenty of foods that naturally contain high levels of the nutrient, such as bananas and orange juice.
A doctor may also prescribe an additional medication, known as a potassium-sparing diuretic, to prevent the loss of excess potassium. If such a pill is prescribed, then a person needs to make sure he doesn't consume too much potassium and may need to avoid it altogether. In extreme circumstances, potassium-sparing diuretics for hypertension can cause excess hair to grow on the body, irregular menstrual cycles, and enlargement of the breasts for both men and women.
On the positive side, diuretics are usually considered the best first-line treatment option over other high blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors and alpha blockers. In addition to lowering blood pressure, diuretics are also effective at protecting against the other conditions that usually result from hypertension, such as a stroke and heart problems. Diuretics remove water from the body, so they are also effective at reducing swelling, such as edema.
Diuretics for hypertension should not be prescribed to just anyone. The effects of diuretics on a fetus remains unknown, so pregnant women should not take them. It is also not a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to take a diuretic. The medication can be transferred to the baby through the milk and potentially cause dehydration in the infant. Older people may have more severe side effects when taking diuretics for hypertension and should only take the medication under close supervision.