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Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol: Causes and Complications


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 4/24/2023

Kidney pain should not occur after drinking but if it does there can be serious health issues. While kidney pain is unlikely after consuming a few standard drinks, it becomes more likely during bouts of binge drinking and in other alcohol misuse situations. People who abuse alcohol are also more likely to be dehydrated, which leads to kidney stones that can cause pain. While some kidney stones can be treated with home remedies and hydration, that’s not always the case. Furthermore, kidney stones can be some of the most painful things to experience. 

That said, understanding how alcohol interacts with the kidneys is important. There are methods to prevent and treat kidney pain after drinking but it’s not always simple. We’re going to take you through everything you need to know about kidney pain after drinking. This includes the causes, treatments, and methods for preventing the problem.

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol?

Kidney pain typically appears in the back on one or both sides of the spine. In most cases, kidney pain appears just under the ribs and can also include other symptoms. The symptoms of kidney pain after drinking alcohol are listed below.

  • Pain on one or both sides of the lower back 
  • Pain just under the ribs 
  • Intense pain in the back that wraps around to the bladder 
  • Kidney stones 
  • Fatigue 
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Changes in heart rate 
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination 
  • Bloody urine 
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea 
  • Fever
  • Chills 
  • Insomnia 
  • Headache 

Depending on the individual, kidney pain can have no additional symptoms or all of these symptoms. Some people may also experience a reduced appetite.

What are the Possible Causes of Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol?

There are several possible causes of kidney pain after drinking alcohol. Many causes depend on how much alcohol is consumed and how long alcohol has been abused. Below are the possible causes of kidney pain after drinking alcohol.

  • Kidney stones 
  • Kidney infection
  • Liver disease 
  • Dehydration 
  • Hydronephrosis 
  • Ureteropelvic junction obstruction 
  • Gastritis

More information about these possible causes is listed below.

1. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are painful and need to be passed at home or in a hospital. When consuming alcohol, the body becomes dehydrated. A dehydrated kidney is more likely to produce kidney stones that are large and challenging to pass. Furthermore, consuming alcohol can force existing kidney stones to start moving. When kidney stones start moving through the body it causes debilitating pain in the kidneys. The location of the pain is below the ribcage and near the lower back.

If kidney stones cause pain that doesn’t go away, they need to be handled with assistance at a hospital. Kidney stones can also be treated at home with increased water intake. In fact, alcohol can force kidney stones to move out of the body (sometimes). We don’t recommend using alcohol in this way.

2. Kidney Infection

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) begin in the bladder or urethra. While the infection can begin in these regions of the body, UTIs can also affect one or both kidneys. These infections cause serious pain and if the pain is near the kidney it needs to be treated with antibiotics. Drinking plenty of water can also help UTIs resolve faster. However, consuming alcohol can increase the risk of a UTI developing and make UTI symptoms worse.

UTIs can also be challenging to treat. Serious UTIs that reach the kidneys can require intravenous antibiotics and surgery. UTIs that last for long periods should be monitored closely and UTIs that happen frequently should be brought up during a medical consultation. Consuming alcohol with a serious UTI can also cause severe complications and reduce the effectiveness of medications.

3. Liver Disease

Liver disease can have several causes. Surprisingly, someone who doesn’t consume alcohol at all in their life can even develop liver disease. That said, drinking alcohol increases the risk of liver disease. A few standard drinks once in a while won’t raise the risk by too much but abusing alcohol every day can cause complications like liver failure, fatty liver disease, and other liver problems. Moreover, someone who experiences liver disease has an increased risk of kidney problems because blood flow to the kidneys becomes disrupted.

Liver disease that results in kidney disease is a serious condition. It requires medical diagnosis and treatment to resolve. However, liver and kidney diseases are not always reversible. When alcohol is the cause of kidney disease and liver disease the individual must quit drinking. Even reducing alcohol consumption to a healthier amount can make treatment more successful.

4. Dehydration

Alcohol is a substance that causes frequent urination. It makes people urinate frequently because it has diuretic properties. When alcohol interacts with the kidneys it causes an imbalance and the kidneys struggle to balance water and electrolytes in the body. For this reason, someone who consumes alcohol is more likely to experience frequent urination which results in water loss. If an individual fails to replace the water that’s lost from peeing it leads to dehydration.

Dehydration can lead to several kidney problems like kidney stones and increase the risk of kidney disease. Chronic dehydration can also lead to kidney damage and require medical attention. Luckily, dehydration can be easy to treat. To treat mild dehydration, consume lots of water or beverages that have electrolytes (like Gatorade). Consuming these beverages helps the body restore lost water from frequent urination.

5. Hydronephrosis

Hydronephrosis occurs when a kidney becomes swollen. In some cases, Hydronephrosis can be caused by two swollen kidneys. When the kidneys become swollen it leads to other issues like pelvic inflammation, flank pain, and trouble with urination. Kidneys typically become swollen because of a blockage that prevents the drainage of urine from the kidneys. Blockages can be caused by many things but a kidney stone is one of the most common causes. As mentioned earlier, alcohol consumption can increase the risk of kidney stones.

Treating swollen kidneys is easier said than done. This is because the kidneys need to be treated before swelling in other areas of the body can resolve. If an infection is the cause antibiotics are required. Antibiotics can be oral or intravenous, so it depends on the severity of the infection. Hydronephrosis can also be treated by passing kidney stones, which can be done under medical supervision if they’re too large to pass at home. When dealing with Hydronephrosis it’s important to consult with a doctor before seeking treatment.

6. Ureteropelvic Junction (UPJ) Obstruction

A ureteropelvic junction obstruction (UPJ) can result in pain that occurs after consuming alcohol. UPJs result in decreased efficiency in the kidneys and bladder, which is made worse by the consumption of alcohol. Kidney pain after drinking alcohol when dealing with a UPJ is located in the lower back, side, and groin. This type of condition can also cause pain to travel throughout the body.

While UPJs can heal on their own, medical treatments can be necessary. Serious UPJs need to be treated by surgery, which repairs the obstruction. That said, consuming alcohol can make it harder for the body to heal and even make UPJs more severe. When treating a UPJ people should avoid alcohol consumption for the best results. Alcohol can also make it worse and increase pain.

7. Gastritis

Gastritis is a condition that occurs when there’s inflammation in the stomach and intestines. Depending on where inflammation occurs, it can be mistaken for kidney pain. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of gastritis because it causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines. Alcohol can also cause inflammation in other areas and cause stomach acidity to increase.

The best way to treat gastritis is to not consume alcohol. Avoiding alcohol will prevent the condition from developing. If alcohol is consumed, however, gastritis can be treated in a few ways. Treatment options include sleeping, pain medications, and antacids. Doctors can also prescribe medications for serious cases of gastritis. These medications include proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists.

How Alcohol Harms Your Kidneys

Alcohol harms the kidneys in a few ways. First and foremost, alcohol causes changes to the kidneys and makes them less efficient at filtering blood. When kidneys are unable to filter blood efficiently, it leads to negative health effects and elevated risks of disease. Alcohol also affects the body’s ability to manage fluids. It can cause the body to dehydrate, which leads to problems with the kidneys and other organs. 

The human body requires water to function properly, so when the kidneys have less water to work with their overall performance declines. For these reasons, abusing alcohol can cause long-term damage to the kidneys that increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also a condition that increases the risk of kidney disease.

How Much Alcohol does Harm Your Kidneys?

Any amount of alcohol can harm the kidneys because it’s a toxic substance. However, one or two standard drinks every once in a while don’t have a big impact on kidney function. On the other hand, abusing alcohol can lead to permanent kidney damage and other kidney problems. On average, consuming more than four alcoholic beverages per day leads to kidney damage and damage to other organs within the body. Consuming alcohol every day also increases the risk of kidney disease and kidney stones.

When Should You See Your Doctor After Kidney Pain?

The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins from the body. When there’s damage to the kidneys the body becomes unable to remove toxins properly. In many cases, this can lead to problems with other organs, kidney failure, and other serious health problems. If you’re feeling pain in your kidneys after damage to the back or a fever along with kidney pain, it’s important to contact your doctor. You should also reach out to your doctor if urination becomes infrequent despite constant hydration.

Kidney pain can also become a serious condition. Below are reasons to visit the emergency room when dealing with kidney problems.

  • Acute kidney problems after drinking alcohol 
  • Debilitating pain in the lower back and kidneys 
  • Kidney pain accompanied by a high fever 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Confusion 
  • Seizures 

These symptoms can represent a bigger problem with the kidneys that needs to be addressed by a medical health professional.

Is There a Treatment for Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol?

Yes, there are treatments for kidney pain after drinking alcohol. The treatment depends on the severity of the kidney pain and the cause of the pain. Some common treatments you can perform at home include drinking plenty of water, taking antibiotics for urinary tract infections (UTIs), pain medications, and lifestyle changes (diet and exercise).

Still, kidney pain after drinking alcohol can’t always be treated. Some treatments require intravenous electrolytes, short-term/long-term dialysis, kidney transplant, and medications that lower blood pressure. When dealing with kidney pain, you should always consult with your doctor before trying at-home treatment methods.

How to Prevent Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Preventing kidney pain after drinking alcohol is possible but it’s not always easy. The most important tip for preventing kidney pain after drinking is to listen to your body. If pain occurs after consuming alcohol you should stop consuming alcohol and monitor the pain. If the pain improves, you should stay away from alcohol until it subsides. Ultimately, if the pain continues to get worse then it’s time to see a doctor. Here are some other tips to help you prevent kidney pain after consuming alcohol.

  • Switch from liquor to less potent alcoholic beverages like beer and wine 
  • Have a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage you drink 
  • Swap out alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages 
  • Follow a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables 
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day
  • Limit sugar intake 
  • Limit caffeine intake 
  • Limit salt intake
  • Avoid tobacco 

Following these tips can prevent kidney pain when drinking alcohol. That said, the best way to prevent kidney pain from alcohol is to remove alcohol from the equation. If alcohol is the cause of the pain, not consuming alcohol will make sure you don’t experience pain or discomfort from the kidneys.

What are the Other Harms of Alcohol similar to Kidney Pain?

Alcohol is a harmful substance and interacts with many organs in the body. For this reason, alcohol causes other harms that are similar to kidney pain. Some examples of these other similar harms are listed below.

  • Liver pain 
  • Liver disease 
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Stomach discomfort 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Brain problems 

Keep in mind that these are only some of the harms that alcohol can cause. There are other non-similar Harms of alcohol as well, which include weight gain and even mood changes.