DIURETICS (from Gr., through, and , pass urine), the name given to remedies which, under certain conditions, stimulate an increased flow of urine. Their mode of action is various. Some are absorbed into the blood, carried to the secretory organs (the kidneys), and stimulate them directly, causing an increased flow of blood; others act as stimulants through the nervous system. A second class act in congested conditions of the kidneys by diminishing the congestion. Another class, such as the saline diuretics, are effectual by virtue of their osmotic action. A fourth class are diuretic by increasing the blood pressure within the vessels in general, and the Malpighian tufts in particular, - some, as digitalis, by increasing the strength of the heart's contractions, and others, as water, by increasing the amount of fluid circulating in the vessels. Some remedies, as mercury, although not diuretic themselves, when prescribed along with those which have this action, increase their effect. The same remedy may act in more than one way, e.g. alcohol, besides stimulating the secretory organs directly, is a stimulant to the circulation, and thus increases the pressure within the vessels. Diuretics are prescribed when the quantity of urine is much diminished, or when, although the quantity may be normal, it is wished to relieve some other organ or set of organs of part of their ordinary work, or to aid in carrying off some morbid product circulating in the blood, or to hasten the removal of inflammatory serous exudations, or of dropsical collections of fluid. Caffeine, which is far the best true diuretic, acts in nearly every way mentioned above. Together with digitalis it is the most efficient remedy for cardiac dropsy. A famous diuretic pill, known as Guy's pill, consists of a grain each of mercurial pill, digitalis leaves and squill, made up with extract of henbane. Digitalis, producing its diuretic effect by its combined action on heart, vessels and kidneys, is much used in the oedema of mitral disease, but must be avoided in chronic Bright's disease, as it increases the tension of the pulse, already often dangerously high. Turpentine and cantharides are not now recommended as diuretics, as they are too irritating to the kidneys.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)