Correctly interpret kidney pain

Correctly interpret kidney pain

Various diseases of varying degrees of severity can cause kidney pain. Kidney problems are often discovered during routine blood or urine tests. However, back pain or pain in the kidney area occasionally leads to a doctor’s visit. Then, the doctor must clarify whether the pain comes from the back or the paired kidneys.

Kidney pain: where? Right, left, both sides

Kidney pain occurs in the flanks, especially in the renal pelvis. Depending on whether one or both kidneys are affected, kidney pain can occur on the right, left or both sides. While back pain impairs movement and often leads to a hunched posture, kidney pain is not necessarily the case. If a light tap with the edge of the hand, about two to three finger widths above the iliac crest, triggers or increases pain, this indicates a kidney problem. A urine test can confirm the diagnosis.

Kidney pain can also occur during pregnancy, where it is initially not clear whether it is back pain or kidney pain. Kidney pain occurs during pregnancy when urine backs up into the renal pelvis due to pressure on the urinary tract. One speaks then of kidney congestion, which should be treated quickly.

Possible cause of kidney pain

If you have kidney pain, you should see a doctor. They can indicate serious illnesses. These diseases include, for example:

  • Inflammation of the renal pelvis as a result of a “highly migrated” cystitis
  • kidney inflammation
  • Cystic kidney disease
  • kidney cancer
  • Kidney stones
  • kidney semolina
  • renal colic

Kidney stones as a cause of kidney pain

Kidney stones form when urine becomes oversaturated with stone-forming substances such as calcium, oxalate, phosphate, uric acid, and cystine. Therefore, people who are prone to stone formation should avoid drinks such as coffee, black tea and alcohol, as these enrich the urine with stone-forming substances.

Usually, certain substances (e.g. calcium-binding citrate) make it difficult for a urinary substance to precipitate from the urinary fluid that is supersaturated with it. However, if these inhibitors are only present in small amounts, they also promote the formation of initially tiny crystals called grit. Larger kidney stones develop from this gravel over time if the conditions are favourable.


Renal colic as a result of kidney stones

As long as the urinary stones are gravel or small, 80 per cent of them can be excreted via the ureters and bladder without causing severe pain by drinking large quantities (over weeks). Damp loin wraps and hot full baths can be additional home remedies.

However, if a large stone moves out of the kidney, painful colic often occurs. Then drinking a lot alone is not enough. The stones are either crushed with shock waves from the outside. The fragments come off on their own. Or the stones are removed using an endoscope or as part of an open operation. In some cases they can also be resolved with medication.

Symptom of pyelonephritis

Kidney pain can be a symptom of  inflammation of the kidneys  (pyelonephritis). Pyelonephritis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the kidney connective tissue, which is usually caused by a bacterial infection. For example, it can occur as a result of a bladder infection. But certain medications and other infections can also lead to acute or chronic pyelonephritis.

In the case of  acute pyelonephritis,  kidney pain, high  fever  and a sudden, strong feeling of illness occur. After taking antibiotics, acute pyelonephritis usually heals.

Sometimes acute inflammation develops into  chronic pyelonephritis  (chronic interstitial nephritis). Chronic pyelonephritis can be symptom-free for a long time, but symptoms such as flank pain can also occur. Another possible cause of kidney pain is interstitial nephritis. In particular, the space surrounding the urinary tubules is inflamed.

Cyst kidneys cause painful kidney remodeling

The cystic kidneys, usually inherited, can also cause kidney pain. Cyst kidneys are dangerous changes in which both have more than three cysts. In the long term, the cystic kidney leads to progressive kidney failure.

Initially, there are usually no symptoms. At a later point in time, those affected often develop chronic urinary tract infections, have pain in the kidney area and sometimes sudden urinary bleeding. As a result, the kidneys are less able to fulfil their tasks. The main aim of treating cystic kidneys is to relieve the symptoms.


Kidney cancer as a cause of kidney pain

Side pain can also be a sign of kidney cancer. Risk factors for developing kidney cancer include:

  • Overweight
  • Smoke
  • high-fat diet
  • frequent contact with kidney-damaging solvents and asbestos
  • chronic kidney disease

Early symptoms are rare in kidney cancer. In the advanced stage of kidney cancer, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, blood in the urine and possibly bone pain occur in addition to flank pain.



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