Kidneys are vital organs that play a crucial role in maintaining water and mineral balance in the body, ensuring the smooth functioning of our bodily systems. Situated in the lower back region, kidneys are positioned on the right and left sides of the abdominal cavity, just behind the peritoneum. The right kidney is located slightly lower than the left, due to the presence of the liver on the right side.
Kidneys contain filtering units called nephrons that help sift out waste products, primarily urea, from the body and expel them with water. This makes them an essential component of the body’s excretory system.
What is Kidney Pain?
Kidney pain is a discomfort felt on the sides of the waist, abdomen, and back. In some cases, kidney pain can also be felt in the genital areas. Kidney pain can result from a physical blow, infection, or disease. While kidney pain is usually felt on one side of the body, it can be experienced on both sides in some kidney dysfunction cases. As there are many organs adjacent to the kidneys, it is quite possible to confuse pain from these organs with kidney pain. Therefore, to confirm kidney pain, a physical examination, various tests, and imaging are performed if necessary. Kidneys are important organs for our body, so any pain should not be neglected and a doctor should be consulted.
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Pain?
The primary symptom of kidney pain is a discomfort radiating from the abdomen and back to the sides. This pain can be in the form of cramps, spasms, or a stabbing sensation. Additionally, fever and nausea often accompany the pain. Other symptoms of kidney pain include painful urination, blood in the urine, foul-smelling urine, bowel discomfort, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, and chills. The symptoms of kidney pain can be confused with other conditions. In this case, your doctor will determine if the pain is originating from the kidneys based on their examination and tests.
What Causes Kidney Pain?
Kidney pain can result from an infection in the kidneys or surrounding organs, kidney diseases, or physical problems experienced by the kidneys. Physical injury or impact, such as those that can occur during sports activities like football and basketball or work accidents, can cause kidney pain. Pyelonephritis, or kidney infection, is typically caused by bacteria found in the digestive system. These bacteria travel to the kidneys through the urinary tract, causing an infection that leads to kidney pain.
Kidney stones, one of the most common causes of kidney pain, form from the accumulation of salt and mineral deposits in the kidneys. Small stones can be passed through the urine, causing a painful condition called “stone passing.” However, the passing of large kidney stones can be difficult and cause severe kidney pain.
Another type of kidney growth, kidney cysts, can be benign or malignant. When small, cysts may not cause any symptoms. However, when cysts grow and rupture, they can cause infection, leading to kidney pain and fever. Polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition, causes cysts to form in both kidneys.
When the glomeruli, which serve as filters in the kidneys, are damaged, glomerulonephritis occurs, impairing kidney function. This condition can lead to kidney pain, infrequent urination, high blood pressure, and even kidney failure.
Another cause of kidney pain is a condition called hydronephrosis. Hydronephrosis is the swelling of the kidneys due to the buildup of urine caused by a blockage in the urinary tract. This condition often occurs when kidney stones are present and results in frequent but minimal urination. Symptoms of hydronephrosis include kidney pain, fever, and urinary incontinence.
How is the Cause of Kidney Pain Diagnosed?
To diagnose kidney pain, the doctor will first perform a physical examination. Following the examination, laboratory tests may be requested. A urine analysis is often conducted to assess the levels of blood, leukocytes, urea, and protein in the urine. In some cases, the urine analysis may not provide enough information. In these instances, radiological imaging options may be considered. An ultrasound or CT scan may be ordered to determine whether the problem in the kidneys is due to a cyst, kidney stone, or another physical injury.
What Helps Relieve Kidney Pain?
The best thing for the kidneys is undoubtedly drinking plenty of water. In addition to consuming ample amounts of water, keeping your feet warm is another important preventive measure for kidney pain. Various herbal waters and teas can also help relieve kidney pain. Some herbal treatments include:
- Parsley water: Parsley water is known for its diuretic properties and is beneficial for cleansing the kidneys.
- Celery water: Celery stalks help remove toxins from the body. Blend the stalks with water and consume the resulting liquid. Celery water is helpful for eliminating toxins that can form kidney stones.
- Basil water: Prepare basil water by adding half a bunch of basil to a liter of hot water. Let the mixture cool and steep until it changes color. You can consume one or two glasses per day. Basil water helps both break down kidney stones and prevent their formation.
- Lemon water: Lemon water is effective for breaking down kidney stones. If you do not have blood pressure issues, you can safely consume it. You can prepare it as lemonade and drink up to 2-3 glasses per day.
- Wheatgrass juice: Wheatgrass juice can help alleviate kidney pain but should be consumed in limited amounts, no more than 30 ml.
- Dandelion tea: Dandelion tea has diuretic properties that help flush out the kidneys. It also has positive effects on gallbladder issues.
- Corn silk tea: If your kidney pain is due to an infection, corn silk tea can help soothe the pain.
- Watermelon seed tea: Steep watermelon seeds in warm water to create a tea that has a diuretic effect, making it beneficial for cleansing the kidneys.
How is Kidney Pain Treated?
Once the cause of kidney pain has been diagnosed, appropriate treatment can be administered. Treatment options vary depending on the underlying condition causing the kidney pain:
- Kidney Infection: Kidney infections are usually caused by bacteria, so treatment typically involves the use of appropriate antibiotics.
- Kidney Stones: Small kidney stones can be passed by drinking plenty of water. For larger stones, lithotripsy (the use of shock waves to break up the stones) may be necessary to help them pass from the body. A doctor can also use ureteroscopy to visualize and remove small stones. Larger stones can be broken down through lithotripsy or dissolved with medication.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease: While kidney cysts generally do not require treatment, medication can be administered to slow the progression of polycystic kidney disease. In addition to medication, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding excessive weight gain, and consuming ample amounts of water are crucial.
- Kidney Tumors: Surgical procedures to remove kidney tumors vary depending on their size and location. If a tumor is small or located on the outer part of the kidney, surgery may only involve removing the tumor. If the tumor is large and located in the center of the kidney, the entire kidney may be removed through surgery. In some cases, radiation therapy may be necessary, either on its own or in addition to surgery.
- Glomerulonephritis: While acute glomerulonephritis may resolve on its own, chronic glomerulonephritis is persistent and requires treatment to alleviate symptoms. Methods such as controlling blood pressure with diuretics and reducing potassium and salt intake may be employed. If glomerulonephritis progresses to kidney failure, dialysis may become a necessary treatment option.
- Atherosclerotic Renal Artery Stenosis: Atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis, which occurs when the cardiovascular system is not healthy, can be treated with medication and by paying attention to one’s diet. If necessary, a surgical procedure can be performed to open up the narrowed artery.