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What Causes Kidney Ache?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Suffering from a kidney ache can be a cause for concern in many patients. The reason for this type of pain can be due to conditions such as a kidney stone or infection or to more serious health concerns such as polycystic kidney disease, which can lead to eventual loss of kidney function. It is important to consult a physician for any persistent kidney ache in order to to receive an accurate diagnosis and an individualized treatment plan.

Kidney stones are a common cause of kidney ache. This type of pain typically occurs when a stone becomes stuck in the ureter, the tube leading from the kidney to the bladder. This often blocks the flow of urine, causing pain as the kidney becomes enlarged due to extra fluid buildup. Kidney stones often cause intense pain that is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Most stones will pass on their own, although surgical intervention may become necessary if a severe blockage is present or if the stone is too large to pass on its own.

A kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis, is another common cause of kidney pain. Infection often leads to swelling of the kidney, and pain is felt as the kidney stretches due to this swelling. Fever and chills are often present along with the kidney pain in cases of infection. A kidney infection is typically treated by several days of taking oral antibiotics.

Polycystic kidney disease is the most common genetic kidney disease and frequently causes a persistent kidney ache. Polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, tends to progress slowly over a period of several years and causes the kidneys to dramatically increase in size and become full of fluid-filled cysts. There is no treatment or cure for this disease, so the patient is kept as comfortable as possible with the use of pain medications until kidney function declines to the point where dialysis or a kidney transplant becomes necessary.

Sometimes, the kidneys or bladder may begin to experience spasms, leading to what is felt as kidney pain. The spasms may be due to something as simple as a full bladder, although the reason for these involuntary contractions is not always known. On rare occasions, cancerous tumors may develop in the kidneys, leading to pain. Properly functioning kidneys are necessary in maintaining life, so it is extremely important to report any instances of persistent kidney ache to a physician right away.

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Discussion Comments
By seag47 — On Jan 04, 2013

I've never personally experienced a kidney stone, but I've heard that it is worse than the pain of childbirth. Both men and women have told me that.

The worst is when you get a huge stone that blocks your urine, so you can't pee. Several of my friends have had to have these stones busted up with a laser.

Also, you have to wear a catheter while you're trying to pass the stones. Drinking plenty of water and not so much soda and tea can help prevent them, but some of my friends aren't willing to make this sacrifice.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 03, 2013

@Kristee – You should see your doctor. Those are the same symptoms I was experiencing when I found out I had polycystic kidney disease!

I had the belly button pain that moved to the side. My doctor originally thought it might be irritable bowel syndrome, but when it didn't go away, she ordered a CT scan, and that's when she saw the cysts on my kidneys.

Really, there is nothing I can do, other than avoid large amounts of caffeine and protein and keep my blood pressure in check. This disease can cause high blood pressure, and this can damage the kidneys further, so it's really important to take medication to control it.

By Kristee — On Jan 02, 2013

I don't have the symptoms of a kidney infection, but I have been having kidney pain for a few days. It started as a sharp pain next to my belly button, but it soon felt like it moved all the way through to my back.

Now, my lower back and my abdomen around my belly button are aching. I don't have kidney stones or any trouble urinating, and I don't have fever.

Should I see a doctor? What could it possibly be?

By Oceana — On Jan 01, 2013

My kidneys are aching right now, because I am on a road trip, and we haven't stopped for three hours! I really need to pee, so I hope we come across a gas station or rest area soon.

I've heard that holding it for a long time can cause kidney pain. It started out just as a bladder ache, but it has moved into my lower back.

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