Home Symptoms Kidney Pain – 6 Possible Causes, Associated Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Kidney Pain – 6 Possible Causes, Associated Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Kidney Pain

Kidney pain, alternatively referred to as renal pain, is the discomfort caused by disease or injury to the kidneys. You may have pain or discomfort in your kidneys in the form of a dull, one-sided soreness in your upper abdomen, side, or back. However, pain in these locations is frequently unrelated to your kidneys.

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs (about 11 cm x 7 cm x 3 cm) positioned in the upper abdominal region, against the back muscles. They are located opposite one another on both the left and right sides of the body; however, the right kidney is slightly lower than the left in order to accommodate the liver’s size.

When the kidneys generate urine, the extra waste products and fluids are eliminated from the body. Additionally, the kidneys are critical in regulating the body’s sodium, potassium, and acidity levels.

The kidneys release hormones that encourage the creation of red blood cells, which aid in blood pressure regulation and calcium and electrolyte metabolism.

Causes of Kidney Pain

Because the kidneys filter the blood, form urine, and pass it out of the body through tubes called ureters, problems in any of these areas could result in pain. Some of the more common causes of kidney pain include:

1. Urinary tract infection

An infection anywhere along the urinary tract is caused by bacteria left behind after urination. Symptoms may include fever, painful urination, cloudy urine, and general fatigue.

2. Renal cancer

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer. It usually affects people in their 60s or 70s, rarely appearing in those under the age of 50. If they occur at all, symptoms include blood in the urine, persistent pain in the back or side just below the ribs, and a lump or swelling in the side.

3. Injury or trauma

Any strong impact or blunt force to the kidney area (such as in contact sports or an accident) may cause a laceration or other physical damage to the kidneys. Such incidents may also cause a disruption of normal blood flow to the kidneys. Acute (sudden) kidney failure may result from kidney trauma.

4. Polycystic kidney disease

An inherited condition in which fluid-filled sacs (cysts) develop inside the kidneys. As the cysts expand, the kidneys become enlarged and may eventually lose their ability to function.

5  Kidney infection

A kidney infection occurs when bacteria from a bladder infection has spread to the kidneys. People with diabetes or who have a blockage in the urinary tract are more likely to get a kidney infection. In chronic cases, some problem in the urinary tract causes urine to flow backward from the bladder up to the kidneys, resulting in repeated infections and possibly permanent kidney damage.

6. Kidney stones

Kidney stones form from the buildup of minerals or chemical wastes inside the body. Stones may be as small as a grain of sand or larger than a pearl. If they are small they may pass out of the body. However, larger stones may get stuck in the urinary tract and prevent urine from passing. In either case, intense pain can result.

Associated Symptoms of Kidney Pain

The symptoms of kidney pain include discomfort, aches, or sharp pain in the back between the lowest rib and buttock. The pain may radiate down the flank to the groin or toward the abdominal area, depending on the source of the pain. Certain individuals may experience symptoms and signs such as the following:

When To See The Doctor

Individuals experiencing kidney or flank pain should not put off seeing a doctor. Although flank discomfort is frequently associated with underlying kidney problems, there are numerous other disorders that can resemble kidney pain, and a physician can assist in making an accurate diagnosis of underlying kidney or flank pain. Any episode of severe kidney or flank discomfort that occurs suddenly should be addressed quickly.

Diagnosis of kidney Pain

Typically, the doctor will do a history and physical examination. Initial tests often include a complete blood count (CBC), kidney function tests (creatinine and BUN), and a urine test, as well as a pregnancy test when indicated. If the individual has sustained a significant injury to the lower back, a lacerated kidney may be suspected.

If suspected kidney stones, a CT (renal protocol or noncontrast spiral CT) or renal ultrasonography is performed; an abdominal X-ray (KUB) may be required but has been mostly superseded by ultrasound and CT. As individuals with kidney stones frequently require repeat X-ray examinations or have recurrent occurrences of kidney stones, ultrasonography is an excellent study to consider due to its lack of radiation.

Abdominal/pelvic computed tomography (CT) with contrast or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with aortogram may be ordered to better identify or discriminate between underlying kidney (renal) and nonrenal causes of flank pain. Such examinations are regularly conducted if it is suspected that a kidney has been injured by a traumatic incident (auto accident, gunshot wound, or blunt trauma such as from a collision in football or workplace injury).

Treatment of Kidney Pain

The treatment of kidney pain (flank pain) is determined by the underlying cause of the pain.
Painful kidney infections and kidney stones are frequently treated with ibuprofen, ketorolac (Toradol), acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), or, in some cases, with small amounts of morphine (kidney stones). However, these agents only address the symptoms of pain (pain relief), not the underlying cause(s) of pain.

Certain patients may pass small kidney stones (usually less than about 6 mm in diameter) spontaneously (urine sweeps the irritating kidney stone out of the ureters and/or urethra) and then be pain-free.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and pyelonephritis, for example, typically require antibiotic treatment in addition to pain medications.
If kidney stones completely obstruct a ureter or are approximately 6 mm in diameter or larger, urologic surgery may be required. Generally, recovery time is minimal (same day or a few days) when kidney stones are removed retrogradely. However, severe kidney lacerations may necessitate additional surgery. The recovery time for these procedures ranges between weeks and months.

Other underlying causes of flank pain may require a similar level of pain management and concurrent therapy. Patients with known kidney problems (kidney disease) and/or impaired renal function, on the other hand, should avoid pain medications that are filtered (removed) through the kidneys and/or may cause further renal damage.


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