Kidneys are, vital, bean-shaped organs positioned in the abdomen, near the middle area of the back. Their main function is to maintain the homeostatic balance of body fluids and play a vital role in the filtration of blood and elimination of harmful toxins from the body in the form of urine.
Kidneys also help in monitoring the concentration of electrolytes like sodium and potassium, thus, maintaining the acid-base balance in the body. Impaired renal functioning can lead to a number of health problems. More often than not, it is accompanied by a sharp and piercing pain in the lower or middle abdomen, near the ribs.
It should not be mistaken with back pain because it is more serious in nature. Kidney pain is one of the major indicators of development of fatal kidney diseases in the body. It may be due to kidney stones, kidney infections, kidney cancer or polycystic kidney disease.
Causes of Colic Kidney Pain
Kidney pain is experienced in the flank area of the back. This kind of pain comes in bouts and is typically sharp and excruciating. Various health conditions are responsible for this pain. Some of them are mentioned below.
- Kidney Infection: Kidney infection, known as pyelonephritis in medical science, is caused due to the inflammation of the kidney tissues. Thereby, the pain-sensitive capsule that surrounds the kidneys stretches and the kidneys swell up. In case of a kidney infection, the pain is intense and may also cause tenderness in the affected area. It may be accompanied by high fever. The treatment of kidney infection is sought by prescription of antibiotics. Your doctor may also administer painkillers to relieve the pain.
- Kidney Stones: One of the most common causes of kidney pain is kidney stones. They result from the crystallization of urine into small, hard stone-like substances as a result of a disturbed balance of fluids and minerals. There are different types of kidney stones that may develop due to varying quantities of certain substances found in urine. These stones can block the ureters and stop the flow of urine. As a result, urine is not excreted from the kidneys, causing them to swell up. Kidney pain caused by kidney stones is considered as 'colic'; i.e., it is felt in waves. It begins in the right or left flank and spreads downwards as the stones travel further into the bladder. The person may also experience nausea and vomiting. Kidney stones can be treated with medication or be surgically removed. A person with kidney stones is advised to increase his/her fluid intake to speeden the elimination process. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are administered to relieve the pain.
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): UTI is also another common cause of kidney pain, especially in women. The Gram Negative bacteria are mainly responsible for UTI. It generally affects the bladder; however, it can spread to the kidneys as well. When the kidneys are affected, a person experiences abdominal pain, fever, chills and vomiting. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat a UTI.
Causes of Dull and Aching Kidney Pain
Kidney pain is often sharp and intense. However, some people may experience a dull ache as well. There are certain health conditions that can cause this type of kidney pain.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD): It is a genetic kidney disorder, causing the kidneys to enlarge due to the formation of several cysts over a span of years. This condition can cause dull and aching kidney pain. This kind of pain is felt in the front area of the abdomen instead of the back region. Kidney dialysis and kidney transplantation are required to treat PKD.
- Kidney Cancer:In rare cases of kidney cancer, a tumor can grow so large that it can damage the capsule of the kidneys by causing excessive stretching. This can lead to an intense throbbing pain, otherwise kidney cancer will not cause any physical pain. However, it must be surgically removed to be completely cured of it.
- Blocked Urine Flow: There are certain health conditions such as chronic bilateral obstructive uropathy or an enlarged prostate that can cause a blockage of the urine flow. The treatment is administered depending upon the cause of the blockage.
Bleeding in the kidneys due to an injury or kidney infarction (blockage of blood flow to the kidneys) are some uncommon causes of kidney pain. If you experience constant bouts of pain in the abdomen for more than 2 days and they do not go away by simple placing a hot water compress or massage, instead of trying to subdue it with an non-prescription OTC antibiotic, please visit your family doctor for a check-up.
We all know that prevention is better than cure, so taking proper precautions will definitely be beneficial. Kidney diseases can be prevented by having a balanced and healthy diet, adequate intake of fluids, regular exercise and not delaying nature calls.