Is it harmful to be on a diuretic or “water pill” for a long time?

There are three reasons people take diuretics.

• Intentional desire to lose water weight — which is common among women who are obsessed with becoming as thin as possible.

• Bodybuilders and physique athletes who want maximum dehydration prior to a contest or photoshoot to appear ripped.

• People with congestive heart failure and other medical conditions that result in fluid retention.

Lasix is a popular prescription diuretic, though “water pills” can also be purchased over the counter.

Potential Harm of Taking Diuretics Long Term

“If diuretics are taken over a long period of time, the kidneys may start to retain sodium, making it possible to develop diuretic-induced edema,” says J. Mark Anderson, MD, DABFM, of Executive Medicine of Texas and who is board certified in family medicine.

“Just like many other medication that are taken long-term, they can cause the body to become dependent upon their use,” continues Dr. Anderson.

“People who take diuretics on an as-needed basis may experience rebound swelling.

“This may also happen if someone who has been on a diuretic for a long period of time suddenly stops taking it,” which would more likely be someone with anorexia nervosa than congestive heart failure.

“Only your physician can determine if a diuretic is right for you. Taking diuretics without proper monitoring can be dangerous because they affect blood pressure, electrolyte balance and can often come with significant side effects.”

It’s not uncommon for those with eating disorders to abuse diuretics.

Dr. Anderson is coauthor of the award-winning book, “Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health,” and host of the nationally syndicated Staying Young Show which goes to podcast as Staying Young Show 2.0.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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