Aldosterone receptor antagonists: Diuretics for heart failure
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How It Works
Aldosterone receptor antagonists are medicines that help the body get rid of extra salt and water (diuretics). They also have other properties that can prevent heart failure from becoming worse, along with improving symptoms of heart failure.
These medicines cause the kidneys to get rid of extra salt and fluid, and they help hold on to (retain) potassium by inhibiting the action of the hormone aldosterone. Because of this, they are called potassium-sparing diuretics.
Why It Is Used
Aldosterone receptor antagonist medicines may be a good option for people with severe heart failure who are already taking other medicines (such as angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors, other diuretics, digoxin, and beta-blockers).1 These medicines have not been well-studied for use in people who have only mild to moderate heart failure. Aldosterone receptor antagonists belong to the class of medicines called potassium-sparing diuretics. This means that they are not associated with a loss of potassium like other diuretics.
How Well It Works
Aldosterone receptor antagonists are the only diuretics that improve survival for people with heart failure. They lower the risk of death and hospitalization and improve symptoms of heart failure.2
More research is needed to confirm the usefulness of this medicine in treating less severe forms of heart failure.
When spironolactone is combined with an ACE inhibitor, the combination may improve heart failure symptoms and decrease mortality.
Side effects of aldosterone receptor antagonists include:
- Skin rash.
- Menstrual abnormalities.
- Deepening of the voice.
- Breast enlargement in men.
- Abdominal cramping and tenderness, bloating, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Erection problems.
- High potassium levels.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Because aldosterone receptor antagonists can increase potassium in the bloodstream, they are usually started at a very low dose and then gradually increased over time. If you are taking aldosterone receptor antagonists, your potassium levels need to be carefully monitored.
Avoid eating large amounts of potassium-rich foods.
If you have low blood pressure, you may feel tired for several weeks while your body adjusts to a decrease in blood pressure.
- Heart Failure Society of America (2006). HFSA 2006 comprehensive heart failure practice guidelines: Executive summary. Journal of Cardiac Failure, 12(1): 10–38. Also available online: http://www.abouthf.org/guidelines.htm.
- Drugs for treatment of heart failure (2006). Treatment Guidelines From the Medical Letter, 4(41): 1–4.
Last Updated: August 25, 2008