Kidney pain is a sign of many diseases. How to recognise the cause and what to do?

Kidney pain can occur on one or both sides of the back. It can sometimes be seen radiating. Pain in the kidney (or both kidneys) can be excruciating, making movement difficult. When it is present along with additional symptoms like fever, weakness, or urination issues, it is a sign of illness. Nephritis, kidney stones, cysts, tumours, and other conditions can all cause kidney pain.

The kidneys can be found on both sides of the spine, between the thoracic and lumbar regions, beneath the liver, and behind the stomach. Kidney pain is frequently confused with pain in the spine, specifically the cross or lumbar region. Kidney pain usually begins on one side, either the left or right, and radiates inward, usually horizontally. When it comes to the spine, however, it spreads vertically towards the neck or legs and is also felt as numbness.

Kidney pain is typically throbbing, colic-like, and paroxysmal, and is sometimes caused by pressure associated with urinary retention. The back pain is rather monotonous. Kidney pain occurs for no apparent reason (the exception is freezing, chilling). Making the correct diagnosis can be difficult, so when in pain, it is best to consult a doctor.

Differences between kidney pain and back pain

CriteriaKidney painSpine pain
Pain localizationthe middle and sides of the back,
it radiates horizontally
usually the middle or lower back,
it radiates vertically
Features of painpiercing, throbbingdull, monotonous
The cause of the painusually for no apparent reasonafter lifting weights,
after sitting or standing for a long time

Symptoms of kidney diseases

Kidney pain is usually the result of a medical problem that requires attention. The kidneys are a vital organ in the body that performs numerous functions. They filter and purify the blood, as well as balance the water, calcium-phosphate, sodium, and potassium. The kidneys produce compounds that regulate blood pressure and help form red blood cells. When they malfunction, problems can spread to other organs.

In addition to back pain , kidney disease also causes other symptoms, such as:

  • pain below the ribs that worsens with movement
  • general malaise – drowsiness, apathy, hyperactivity,
  • fever, headache , smell of ammonia from the mouth, vomiting ,
  • oliguria, lack of urine,
  • burning when urinating,
  • cloudy urine with an intense, unpleasant odor,
  • bloody or dark colored urine
  • increased blood pressure
  • swelling of the limbs ( leg swelling ) and around the eyes.

Causes of kidney pain

  • Renal colic  ( nephrolithiasis )
  • Nephritis
  • Hydronephrosis
  • Kidney cyst
  • Kidney cancer

What to do when your kidneys hurt?

If you experience kidney pain, see your GP. If the symptoms are extremely severe, they may indicate an attack of renal colic, and in such cases, it is reasonable to call an ambulance. If there is no need for immediate intervention, the doctor will first order a general urine test , additional tests of kidney function parameters ( creatinine, urea, GFR ) and ultrasound of the kidneys and urinary system. 

In some cases, other imaging tests (X-ray, CT scan) will be necessary, and sometimes also a kidney biopsy. Depending on the diagnosis, the next steps may vary. It must be remembered that kidney pain is a symptom, so it is not the cause that should be treated, but the cause, i.e. the actual disease. Untreated kidney disease can lead to life-threatening consequences, including: to complete destruction of the organ. Then the only solution m



4th Professional Medical Student. Karachi Medical and Dental College.

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