When people experience back or flank pain related to their kidneys, it’s up to the primary care physician or kidney specialist to discover what this means. Kidney pain can be experienced in a variety of ways, and it is important to understand how it manifests.
The Nature of Kidney Pain
Kidney pain usually happens in the groin, back (flank), or lower abdomen. It could be a sharp feeling or dull. It might move to the groin or stay in one area like under your ribs on one side of your body. Unlike back pain from a spinal injury or condition, a change of position won’t make kidney pain better or worse.
Kidney pain may not just be coming from the kidney itself. It can also be coming from other places in the urinary tract, for example, in the:
- Ureters, or tubes carrying urine from the kidneys to the bladder for excretion from the body
- The urinary bladder is the body’s natural collection vessel for urine
- Ureter, the natural gateway for urine excretion from the bladder
Sadly, and much to the discomfort of nephrology patients, kidney pain usually is not a stand-alone symptom. Other symptoms, such as fever, chills, fatigue and more may accompany kidney pain. Fortunately, your kidney specialist can use symptoms, along with blood tests, urinalysis, and imaging (ultrasound and CT scans) to determine why you are in pain and what can be done to treat the condition. Here are three possible conditions that may cause a person to experience back or flank pain related to their kidneys:
Three Conditions Which May Feature Kidney Pain
Sometimes, kidney conditions are asymptomatic for long periods of time. In other words, people may not know they are sick right away.
However, many patients do express kidney pain as the main feature of their health condition. Here are three of the most common kidney problems diagnosed by our board-certified nephrologists.
Also called renal calculi, kidney stones form in the pelvis of the kidney and may travel and obstruct other parts of the urinary tract. Kidney stones are composed of accumulated calcium and other minerals. Small ones can pass harmlessly during urination, and people may not even realize they have had problems.
However, other people become very ill with kidney stones, experiencing severe flank and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, painful urination, blood in the urine, and even retention of the urine in the bladder.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
A chronic condition that runs in families, polycystic kidney disease can cause severe kidney pain. Ultrasound and/or CT scans reveal the presence of fluid-filled sacs within the kidney. These sacs multiply and enlarge, causing pain and infection. Left untreated, severe polycystic kidney disease can degrade renal function.
Distinct from a urinary tract infection (UTI) which only involves only the urinary bladder, pyelonephritis is an acute, and potentially dangerous, infection of the kidney itself. While it features noticeable pain in the flank and abdomen, pyelonephritis also causes:
- Extreme urinary urgency (suddenly needing to use the bathroom)
- Fever and chills
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cloudy and/or bloody urine
Gram-negative bacteria from a person’s stool usually cause pyelonephritis. In patients already compromised by renal or systemic diseases, pyelonephritis can lead to renal abscess and other problems needing hospitalization.
Kidney Pain Treatment in Brockton and Taunton, MA
At Associates in Nephrology, our professional team understands the complexities of kidney function and disease. If you have serious kidney pain and your primary care physician thinks you need an in-depth assessment, please contact us for a consultation at one of our two state-of-the-art locations.