What is Triamterene?

T. Broderick

Triamterene, marketed under the trade name Dyrenium, is an oral prescription medication used in the treatment of hypertension and edema. A potassium-sparing diuretic, the medication interferes with the kidneys' ability to reabsorb sodium from urine. Increased sodium elimination lowers blood pressure and reduces the likelihood of the fluid retention observed in edema. Triamterene has both mild and severe side effects. The medication is contraindicated by certain medical conditions, including pregnancy.

Taking triamterene medication may cause kidney stones.
Taking triamterene medication may cause kidney stones.

In healthy individuals, the kidney's epithelial sodium channel reabsorbs sodium before urine travels to the kidney. This reabsorption maintains normal sodium levels. In individuals with hypertension and edema, elevated sodium levels cause high blood pressure and edema, fluid retention under the skin. Triamterene and other potassium-sparing diuretics block the epithelial sodium channel. Reduced blood pressure and decreased instances of edema result as the body freely eliminates sodium through the urine.

Individuals taking triamterene can experience many mild side effects. For example, if the body eliminates too much sodium as a result of the medication, an individual may experience dizziness, headache, diarrhea, and vomiting. These side effects can intensify if triamterene prompts the body to also eliminate excess quantities of calcium and folic acid. One should consult his or her primary care physician if side effects worsen or do not clear up within a few days after beginning treatment.

Besides common side effects, some individuals taking triamterene experience severe side effects. These side effects include fever, rash, chills, and back pain. These physical symptoms are in some cases the first signs that medication will create kidney stones. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should stop taking the medication immediately. Medical tests may be necessary to determine kidney stone development or other kidney damage.

Due to the potential damage triamterene can inflict upon the kidneys, those already suffering from kidney stones should discuss potential risks with their physician. These individuals should expect close monitoring by a physician after beginning treatment. A physician may require his or her patient to undergo regular blood and urine tests throughout the treatment cycle.

Triamterene presents risks to individuals with other medical conditions. A physician will rarely prescribe the medication to pregnant women due to potential risks to the fetus. The medication also poses specific risks to individuals with diabetes; decreased sodium in the bloodstream can severely affect how the body reacts to glucose. A diabetic individual may have to completely change his or her diabetes management.

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