Spironolactone

Sounds like 'spir-ON-oh-LAK-tone'

Easy-to-read medicine information about spironolactone – what it is, how to take it safely and possible side effects. Spironolactone is commonly called Spiractin or Spirotone.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Diuretic (causes you to pee more)
  • 'Water' tablet or 'water pill'
  • Potassium-sparing diuretic
  • Spiractin®
  • Spirotone®

What is spironolactone?

Spironolactone is used to treat a number of different conditions and related symptoms, including:

  • to reduce extra fluid in the body (called oedema) caused by conditions such as heart failure, liver disease or problems with your kidneys – it can reduce swelling in your ankles or feet, and shortness of breath
  • high blood pressure
  • primary hyperaldosteronism
  • facial hair growth and acne in women, as in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

In New Zealand spironolactone is available as tablets.

Dose

  • The dose of spironolactone will be different for different people depending your medical condition and response to treatment.
  • Always take your spironolactone exactly as your doctor has told you.
  • The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much spironolactone to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.

How to take spironolactone

  • Timing: Spironolactone is usually taken once a day, in the morning. Some people, taking higher doses may need to take a second dose later in the day. You can take spironolactone with or without food.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol while taking spironolactone: Alcohol may increase your chance of side effects such as dizziness.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. If it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time. Do not take 2 doses at the same time.

Precautions when taking spironolactone

Before starting spironolactone

  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Do you have problems with your kidneys?
  • Do you have Addison’s disease?
  • Are taking any other medicines? This includes any medicines you are taking that you can buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines and medicines you can buy for pain relief.

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start spironolactone. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.

While taking spironolactone

You may need blood tests while taking spironolactone to check the amount of potassium and sodium in your blood, and to see how well your kidneys are working.

Side effects

Like all medicines, spironolactone can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Stomach upset


  • These are quite common when you first start taking spironolactone and usually go away after the first few days.
  • Try taking your spironolactone dose with or after food.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling light headed
  • Feeling faint when you stand up
  • Be careful when getting up from either lying down or sitting to avoid falls.
  • These effects puts you at risk of falls and injuries, especially if you are elderly.
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Signs of too much potassium in your blood such as irregular heart beat (heart beat feels fluttery), tingling feelings, paralysis (difficulty moving) or difficulty breathing 
  • Spironolactone may sometimes cause increased potassium in your blood.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline 0800 611 116.
  • Signs of dehydration (loosing too much salt and water) such as muscle cramps, weakness, dry mouth, thirst or passing unusually reduced amounts of pee
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline 0800 611 116.
  • Signs of hormone changes such as breast development (in men), changes in menstrual cycle (periods) in women, sexual function problems   
  • Tell your doctor.

Interactions

Spironolactone may interact with a number of medicines and herbal supplements so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting spironolactone and before starting any new medicines.

Also check with your pharmacist before taking anti-inflammatories that can be bought over the counter, such as diclofenac (eg, Voltaren Rapid), ibuprofen (eg, Nurofen), naproxen (eg, Naprogesic).

Learn more

The following links provide further information on spironolactone:

Spiractin Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets
Spironolactone (Māori) NZ Formulary Patient Information

References

  1. Spironolactone NZ Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 18 Dec 2020