Kidney Pain Location
Kidneys are located at the bottom of the rib cage, about 3 inches away from the spine on each side (see the image on the right), but the pain from the kidneys can be expected over much larger area of the middle back and side of the body--in the flanks (see the image above).
Some kidney disorders are rarely associated with pain, for example chronic kidney failure.
Some kidney disorders cause no spontaneous pain, but pain can be provoked by a gentle hit to a kidney by the bottom of the fist.
Referred Kidney Pain
Pain from the kidneys can radiate to a wide area of the middle and lower back and abdomen, groin and thighs (see the light brown area in the picture above). This is so called referred pain. Urinary stones in the kidneys or ureters are the most common cause of referred kidney pain.
Symptoms and Signs Associated With Kidney Pain
Symptoms of kidney disorders typically associated with kidney pain:
Nausea or vomiting
Cloudy or foamy urine or smelly urine
Passing a stone in urine
Excessive urination (increased total daily amount of urine)
Blood in urine
Fever or chills
A lump in the flank or in upper abdomen
Generalized itch or rash
Generalized body swelling
Common Causes of Kidney Pain
Kidney inflammation (nephritis)
Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
Obstruction of the ureteropelvic junction (UPJ)
Kidney enlargement (hydronephrosis)
Loin pain hematuria syndrome (LPHS)
1. Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are formed in the kidneys but they usually cause pain only when they lodge in the ureter on the right or left side.
Pain from the kidney stone presents as a severe pain in the flank that can last from several minutes to few hours and can radiate down by one side of the lower back or abdomen into the groin and genitalia.
The pain can recur in intervals of different lengths -- from days to months. A small stone can be sometimes excreted with the urine.
Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, frequent urination, cloudy urine and blood in urine.
Uncomplicated kidney stones are usually not associated with fever.
Over the counter painkillers, such as aspirin or paracetamol can help relieve the pain.
2. Kidney Inflammation
The cause of kidney inflammation (glomerulonephritis or interstitial nephritis) is often not known. Symptoms may include:
Acute or chronic, mild, dull pain in one or both kidneys with a waxing an waning course (the pain can be absent)
Swelling around the ankles and around the eyes or generalized swelling
Treatment may require steroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs.
3. IgA Nephropathy
IgA nephropathy or Berger's disease is a type of kidney inflammation.
Brown, cola- or tea-colored urine, usually triggered by a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection
Spasms or dull pain in both flanks
Symptoms may last for up to 3 days.
4. Kidney infection
Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) usually arises from the infection of the lower urinary tract (urethra or bladder).
Pain in one or both flanks
High fever and chills
Cloudy and smelly urine
Blood in urine
Treatment is by antibiotics.
5. Obstruction of the ureteropelvic pelvic junction
Obstruction of the ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) refers to narrowing of one or both ureters at the point where they leave the kidneys.
The main symptoms is sudden pain in one or both flanks after drinking large amounts of fluid.
Prevention is by avoiding drinking large amounts of fluids in a short time. Usually no treatment is required.
6. Kidney Enlargement
Kidney enlargement (hydronephrosis) can be caused by the obstruction of one or both ureters, usually by a kidney stone or tumor. The enlargement can develop quickly, within few days, or gradually over several moths.
Symptoms include a lump and dull pain over the kidney on one or both sides.
A sudden kidney enlargement is a medical emergency. Treatment may involve endoscopy or surgery.
7. Loin Pain Hematuria Syndrome
Loin pain hematuria syndrome is a rare kidney disorder caused by infection, hormonal changes or use of oral contraceptives, mainly in young women.
Symptoms may include:
Constant or throbbing pain in one or both flanks, aggravated by exercise
Blood in the urine
Symptoms may last from hours to months and often recur.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic kidney disease is a hereditary disease with cysts in both kidneys.
Middle back or upper abdominal pain
A palpable lump in the upper abdomen on both sides
Increased blood pressure
Occasional blood in urine
Frequent urinary infections
Inflammation of the arteries (vasculitis) can also affects kidneys. This can happen in diseases, such as polyarteritis nodosa or Henoch-Schönlein purpura.
Bilateral kidney pain
10. Kidney Tumor
Kidney tumors (benign or malign) can develop in any life period.
Symptoms may include:
Slowly progressing pain in the kidney area, usually only on one side
Blood in urine
Unintentional weigh loss
A lump in the kidney area
Treatment is by chemotherapy or surgery.
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