What Causes Kidney Pain?

Now that you know the role of healthy kidneys in your body, lets take a look at what can go wrong with your kidneys and result in kidney pain.

There are two common conditions that can cause kidney pain. Many are relatively easy to cure with proper medical treatment and do not cause any long term damage when treated promptly. There are some more serious diseases that are typically progressive and will ultimately destroy a kidney.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are a common cause of kidney pain. Although, a kidney stone sitting in the organ does not cause any pain the actual exit from the kidney causes a great deal of pain. Kidney stones develop over time from excess deposits that were never filtered out in the urine. The stones may eventually attempt to leave the kidney by passing through the ureter. Stones that are too large can become lodged. The blocked ureter causes urine to back up into the ureter canal and back into the kidney. The kidney becomes swollen, causing a great deal of pain. The acute pain happens when the stone attempts to travel through the ureter. Many people associate the pain of trying to pass a kidney stone through a narrow ureter to that of child birth. The pain is often so great a person is unable to get comfortable and may feel the need to pace or writhe in pain.

Kidney Infection

A kidney infection is another common cause of kidney pain. Medical professionals refer to this as pyelonephritis. Usually only one kidney becomes infected resulting in the pain being isolated to the right or left side. The infection is caused by a build up of bacteria within the kidney. This typically occurs when a bladder infection is left untreated and is allowed to travel up through the ureter into the kidney. This is more common in females. Bladder or other urinary tract surgery is often the culprit in causing a kidney infection. Those who have been on a catheter, may also contract a kidney infection.

When a person has a kidney infection they typically have several other symptoms that help a doctor or sufferer identify the cause of the pain. A fever and chills almost always accompany a kidney infection. The fever is the body’s natural response to try and fight the infection riddling the kidneys. Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms of a kidney infection. Probably, the biggest indicator, is pain while urinating and frequent urge to urinate. The urge does not always mean there is any urine to pass, but is more of a sensation only. Kidney infections are serious and need to be treated immediately.

Diseases of the Kidneys

There are also a number of diseases that can cause kidney pain. The diseases may be hereditary or developed over time as a result of another condition like Lupus, diabetes or high blood pressure. Kidney diseases are usually incurable and will require lifelong management.

Some form of kidney disease effects one out of every nine adults in the United States or 26 million people. Early detection and management can help reduce the progressive nature of kidney diseases.

  • Chronic kidney disease or CKD is an umbrella term used to cover a wide variety of conditions that all ultimately have similar symptoms and results. Kidney diseases may be inherited, due to a gene mutation or acquired overtime.
  • Polycystic kidney disease is one of the most common hereditary diseases that affects the kidneys. It often goes undiagnosed for years.
  • Glomerulonephritis is another umbrella term used to diagnose several types of kidney disease that affect the blood vessels within the kidneys.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

A person may have only one or two symptoms and still have kidney disease. Symptoms associated with any type of kidney disease are as follows:

  • high blood pressure
  • protein in the urine
  • Kidney function pain
  • blood in the urine
  • a swollen abdomen
  • headache
  • frequent urination
  • kidney infections
  • fatigue
  • edema in the face, hands or feet
  • flank pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fever/chills
  • dizziness or the inability to concentrate
  • skin rash
  • anemia
  • difficulty breathing due to a fluid build-up around the lungs


Treatment, Prevention, and More Resources

This overview of symptoms may have helped you determine what the source of kidney pain might be. Now lets look at some common treatments and prevention for kidney pain. This site also provides resources for more information about kidney health and kidney disease.