What Is the Connection between Furosemide and Heart Failure?

Susan Abe

The connection between furosemide and heart failure is that the drug is one of the primary methods of treatment for this condition. Furosemide is a loop diuretic used to treat congestive heart failure, high blood pressure or hypertension, or other conditions where edema, or swelling, is present. Diuretics relieve the body of excess water, thus reducing high blood pressure and putting less strain on the heart during heart failure. Furosemide is classified is classified as a "loop diuretic" due to its effects on the loop of Henle, where the kidneys regulate the body's water volume and electrolyte levels. The medication is administered intravenously (IV) or orally (PO).

Heart failure occurs when a person's heart is no longer able to pump the required amount of blood around the body.
Heart failure occurs when a person's heart is no longer able to pump the required amount of blood around the body.

During heart failure, one of the first means of treatment is to reduce the amount of blood the heart needs to circulate throughout the body. A diuretic decreases the overall blood volume by increasing the excretion of water through the kidneys and urinary system. The connection between furosemide and heart failure is that like other diuretics, the medication will eliminate excess water, decreasing the work required of the heart. Frequent laboratory tests are necessary to monitor blood electrolyte levels as loop diuretics also excrete these substances. Potassium, for instance, is freely lost with excess water and may result in hypokalemia, or low potassium levels.

Furosemide is used to treat conditions where swelling of the heart is present.
Furosemide is used to treat conditions where swelling of the heart is present.

Interestingly, both furosemide and heart failure can cause weakness and fatigue as side effects. Another side effect of the medication includes postural hypotension, a condition where quickly standing from a sitting or lying position may result in dizziness and even fainting. Muscle cramping and an irregular heartbeat may occur as a result of low potassium levels in the bloodstream and should be reported to a physician promptly. A more serious side effect of furosemide, temporary or permanent hearing loss has been reported, particularly when higher doses of the medication are administered intravenously. Another shared potential serious side effect of both furosemide and heart failure is that of confusion, another symptom that requires prompt notification of the attending physician.

Furosemide can interact with several over-the-counter and prescription medications and even supplements, and is generally contraindicated — medically forbidden — to administer with other loop or potassium-depleting diuretics. This prohibition is necessary to prevent excessive dehydration or life-threatening electrolyte imbalances. Other medications that can interact with this drug include aspirin, lithium and ethacrynic acid. It is also suggested that ototoxic drugs, or those potentially dangerous to hearing, be avoided if at all possible.

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