What Causes Kidney Pain?

There are a number of answers to the question as to what causes kidney pain. One of the things that commonly causes kidney pain is an infection, which often is felt as a dull pain near the ribs, or in the upper back. Another cause is kidney stones. Here the pain experienced is more apt to be sudden and rather sharp.

Kidney pain is not to be taken lightly, although an infection can often be cleared up fairly simply. The treatment of kidney stones is more involved, yet is still, from a medical standpoint, fairly straightforward. One thing about kidney stones is this. They usually do not cause any pain until they have left the kidney. The proper technical term should probably be ureter stones, but since the kidneys are to blame, we call them kidney stones. A pain of a more serious nature would be that caused by the death of tissues in the kidney due to a kidney disease.

The layman may understandably have some difficulty in determining what causes kidney pain, since the kidneys are located higher in the abdomen than most people think. People often mistake lower abdominal pain or lower back pain as emanating from the kidneys, when the source of the pain is due to something else, and not the kidneys.

Function Of The Kidneys

It can be helpful to understand the function the kidneys perform, since things that can interfere with the kidneys' function are more often than not the reason behind the pain. Our kidneys are bean-shaped organs, and are a bit smaller than most people visualize them to be. The kidneys are real workhorses in the body, as they retain water, electrolytes, and salts, working to keep these elements in proper proportions in the body, while at the same time removing wastes and toxins from the blood stream. The wastes and toxins will eventually be sent to the bladder in the form of urine. The kidneys also play an important role in regulating calcium levels in the body, as well as regulating a hormone that is crucial to the production of red blood cells. Each of our two kidneys is capable of carrying on a much larger workload than it is usually called upon to do, which is fortunate, since it means we can get along quite well with only one kidney should the need arise.

When something adversely affect a kidney's  function, it usually causes kidney pain, which is a good thing, as the pain signals that something isn't quite right, and since the kidneys are vital organs, any early warning signal has to be considered to looked at as a positive, no matter how painful it may be.

Causes Of Kidney Pain

Both arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, the hardening or blockage of the renal artery which supplies blood to the kidneys, can be a source of kidney pain. Both conditions are preventable, and atherosclerosis is treatable. We think of problems with the arteries as being a danger to the heart, which is true, but they can present dangers to the kidneys as well. An artery bursting or leaking, causing a hemorrhage in a kidney, can cause a great deal of pain. It's not just the arteries that can be a source of a kidney problem and the pain that goes with it. The veins in the kidney are also sometimes a source of kidney pain, the most common cause being when a blood clot forms in a vein. This condition is referred to as renal vein thrombosis.

We don't usually think of urine as causing kidney pain, since the kidneys eliminate urine, but a problem in the ureter or bladder can sometimes cause urine to back up into the kidneys, causing them to swell. The swelling will in turn cause pain.

Yet another cause of pain is polycystic kidney disease. Here, clusters of cysts form inside the kidneys. While the cysts themselves are relatively harmless, clusters of them can affect the kidney's function.  Besides causing kidney pain, these clusters of cysts can cause high blood pressure, and if left untreated, can in some instances result in kidney failure.

Finally, kidney pain can be due to a urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections most often affect the bladder or the ureters, but can on occasion invade the kidneys as well. When the kidneys are infected, the symptoms can include upper back and side pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, and possibly a high fever. Urinary tract infections affecting the kidneys are generally successfully treated with antibiotics.

Anytime you are experiencing kidney pain, you should see your doctor, but it if is a sharp, severe pain, it's important to seek emergency care as soon as possible. It is even more urgent should there be blood in your urine in addition to the pain, but even if there is no blood in the urine, a sharp severe pain is quite often an indication that hemorrhaging is occurring in one of the kidneys. Many of these causes of kidney pain are preventable, but only if you make it a practice to lead a healthy lifestyle.


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