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What is Hydrochlorothiazide?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hydrochlorothiazide is a prescription drug most commonly used to manage chronic high blood pressure. It may also be given to patients who experience fluid retention and related symptoms that result from heart conditions, liver cirrhosis, or kidney problems. The drug is classified as a diuretic, or water pill. It helps the kidneys flush excess fluids and sodium from the body through the urine. There are few risks of major side effects when taking hydrochlorothiazide, though it is important to keep regular doctor appointments to ensure the medication is working correctly and that complications do not arise during treatment.

Diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide work by blocking sodium ion channels in the kidneys. Excess quantities of water, sodium, and other heavy minerals are passed in the urine instead of being reabsorbed into the bloodstream. As more salts and water are excreted from the body, fluid retention quickly subsides and blood pressure is stabilized.

Most patients who have high blood pressure are instructed to take hydrochlorothiazide pills twice a day with meals. People who take the drug for other reasons may need to use it more or less frequently as determined by their doctors. It is important for patients to avoid drinking alcohol during treatment to avoid possible complications. Some medications, including ibuprofen and diabetes drugs, can interfere with hydrochlorothiazide and should be discussed with a doctor prior to use. A physician may suggest making certain dietary and lifestyle changes in addition to taking the drug to improve the chances of a good recovery.

Increased urination is an expected and positive effect of hydrochlorothiazide use. For most patients, urination patterns return to normal after a few weeks of treatment. Some other temporary side effects may occur as well, including excess thirst, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and drowsiness. Rarely, more serious side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and elevated heart rate can arise. It is important to inform a doctor if side effects become severe or persist for several days at a time.

Patients need to to attend frequent checkups during treatment with hydrochlorothiazide to ensure that blood pressure is kept within normal ranges. Additional tests may be run during checkups to make sure the liver and kidneys are functioning properly. If health problems persist despite following the doctor's instructions about medication use and lifestyle activities, he or she may decide to raise the dose of hydrochlorothiazide or try a different medication altogether.

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