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What Does Potassium Sparing Mean?

By Joseph Pritchard ; Updated April 18, 2017

Potassium sparing is a phrase that typically describes a special class of diuretics, Drugs.com explains. Diuretics are medications that help your body eliminate excess water. Usually, diuretics cause your body to excrete large amounts of potassium. This can lead to deficient levels of potassium in the body. Potassium sparing diuretics facilitate water excretion, but keep potassium loss to a minimum.

Potassium Sparing Diuretics

Potassium sparing diuretics include drugs such as amiloride, spironolactone and triamterene. These drugs are able to lower fluid levels within the body without causing severe potassium loss. Potassium sparing medications work by stimulating your kidneys to absorb more potassium before it is excreted in your urine, BartterSite.org reports. These medications increase urine flow, which helps the body eliminate excess liquid.

Function

Potassium sparing diuretics are most often used to treat high blood pressure and prevent fluid retention, according to MedlinePlus, a service of the National Institutes of Health. Fluid retention may be caused by heart disease, blood vessel damage or liver damage. In all of these conditions, excess fluid can lead to complications, such as edema, difficulty breathing and death. Spironolactone is also beneficial in restoring potassium levels in patients suffering from a potassium deficiency.

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Dosage

Only your doctor can prescribe potassium sparing diuretics. Amiloride comes in capsule form, and 5 mg to 10 mg is given daily to help lower blood pressure or reduce fluid levels, Drugs.com states. For spironolactone, dosages vary depending on why you are taking the drug. If you are attempting to lower the amount of water in your body, you doctor may initially prescribe 25 mg to 200 mg per day. This dose can be increased, depending on your case. If you are taking spironolactone to lower blood pressure, then 50 mg to 100 mg is given at first, with dosages gradually increasing to 200 mg per day. Trimaterene is given as a 100 mg dose twice a day in order to reduce blood pressure.

Side Effects

The potential side effects of potassium-sparing diuretics range from mild symptoms to severe complications. All three drugs can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and headache. Amiloride and spironolactone can decrease sexual function, while triamterene can cause an increased sensitivity to sunlight. Spironolactone may also cause breast tenderness in females, breast enlargement in men, increased sweating and irregular menstrual periods, BartterSite.org warns.

More serious complications include severe shortness of breath, high fever, painful urination, bleeding in the digestive system, irregular heartbeat, extreme fatigue and unusual bleeding. Consult your doctor if you experience any of these potentially life-threatening effects.

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