Diuretics are a group of drugs or medicines that prompts the creation and excretion of urine. These medicines are used to decrease the fluid build-up in the body as a treatment for many health issues. Medicines from this class are commonly known as water pills. Some examples of diuretics are furosemide or Lasix, mannitol, thiazide etc. they are used to treat a number of health conditions like hypertension, varicose veins, congestive heart failure, kidney failure etc.
To understand whether these diuretics help lymphedema, we need to see first what an edema is and what is a lymphedema.
An edema is an abnormal collection or built up of fluid in the tissues. This is actually caused due to some underlying medical conditions like hypertension, varicose veins, kidney failure, congestive cardiac failure etc. Diuretics are used here to help in correction of the actual root cause of the fluid build-up.
Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of the lymph fluid, usually in one or both arms or legs. This may happen due to congenital or hereditary formation issues of the lymphatic system, or as a secondary collection due to some other diseases. This may also happen due to exposure to radiation or any injuries. Diuretics are not useful to treat the underlying cause of the lymphedema.
Do Diuretics Help Lymphedema?
The answer usually is negative, though there are a rare few exceptions.
Diuretics is the best treatment when it comes to the cure of the persons suffering from swelling in lower extremities due to congestive cardiac failure. The main action of diuretics is to limit capillary filtration. When the heart works ineffectively, it may cause the pressure in the veins to increase. This results in a pressure increase in the tissues and hence edema is seen. This edema is not associated with the lymphatic system and is very different than lymphedema.
Diuretics help to drain excess water with the help of kidneys in the form of urine. Thus, the pressure in the veins is decreased and hence the pressure in the tissues also decrease thereby reducing the edema. However, if the affected person drinks additional fluids and water, this fluid may again build up and the edema may return. Hence in such cases, water and salt intake is to be regularly monitored.
In some cases, if the edema is unmanageable with diuretics alone, then compression garments may be required to keep the fluid from building up.
In these cases, the lymphatic system may be unaffected, but these persons, if suffering from congestive cardiac failure, can develop swelling still.
The Lymphatic System
The lymph fluid drains through the lymph vessels and the lymph nodes and lymphedema occurs as a result of blockage in these lymphatic vessels or any injury or removal of the lymph nodes.
These vessels and nodes carry the lymph fluid. The lymph fluid is a protein rich fluid, that is responsible in the immunity system of our body. This fluid travels in the lymphatic vessels and not in the veins. Hence, decreasing the pressure in the veins with the help of diuretics is going to be of no use in the correction of lymphedema.
If a person has a mixed condition, that is, a lymphedema and also a co-existent edema as a result of congestive cardiac failure, then the diuretics may prove to be of some help in reducing the edema. However, lymphedema still has to be treated differently.
Whatever the causative factor for lymphedema might be, lymphedema essentially has no cure. However, it is a treatable disease and the symptoms like swelling and pain etc. can be managed through drugs and compression therapy etc. However, diuretics are absolutely of no use when it comes to the management of lymphedema alone. If lymphedema is present along with edema, then diuretics may be able to resolve the edema alone, while the lymphedema will be unaffected by the diuretics.
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