John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Edema facts
- What is edema?
- What is pitting edema and how does it differ from non-pitting edema?
- What causes pitting edema?
- How does salt intake affect edema?
- Why does a patient with heart disease retain fluid?
- Why do patients with liver disease develop ascites and edema?
- Why does edema occur in patients with kidney disease?
- What is idiopathic edema?
- How does venous insufficiency cause edema?
- Which diuretics are used to treat edema?
- Are diuretics used for other purposes?
- Find a local Internist in your town
Which diuretics are used to treat edema?
Edema can become a problem in systemic diseases of the heart, liver or kidneys. Diuretic therapy can be initiated, often alleviating the edema. The most potent diuretics are loop diuretics, so-called because they work in the portion of the kidney tubules referred to as the loop of Henle. The kidney tubules are small ducts that regulate salt and water balance, while transporting the forming urine. Clinical loop diuretics available are:
- furosemide (Lasix),
- torsemide (Demadex), and
- butethamine (Bumex).
The doses of these diuretics vary depending upon the clinical circumstances. These drugs can be given orally, although seriously ill patients in the hospital may receive them intravenously for more prompt or effective response. If one of the loop diuretics is not effective alone, it may be combined with an agent that works further down (more distally) in the tubule. These agents include the thiazide type diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), or a similar but more potent type of diuretic called metolazone (Zaroxolyn). When diuretics that work at different sites in the kidney are used together, the response often is greater than the combined responses to the individual diuretics (synergistic response).
Some diuretics frequently cause an excessive loss of potassium in the urine, leading to the depletion of body potassium. These drugs include the loop diuretics, the thiazide diuretics, and metolazone. Patients on these diuretics are commonly advised to take potassium supplements and/or to eat foods high in potassium. High potassium foods include certain fruits such as:
- Orange juice
Patients with impaired kidney function often do not require potassium supplements with diuretics because their damaged kidneys tend to retain potassium. In certain instances, the volume of urine induced by the diuretic can be improved by adding a potassium-sparing diuretic, one that does not cause depletion of potassium. These diuretics include spironolactone (Aldactone), triamterene (Dyrenium, a component of Dyazide), and amiloride (Midamor). Adding one of these diuretics to the patient's diuretic regimen may preclude the need for potassium supplements. Another diuretic that can be used is acetazolamide (Diamox), which counteracts the development of an increased concentration of bicarbonate (too much alkali) in the blood. Increased bicarbonate sometimes occurs in patients receiving other diuretics.
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