New research suggests that moderate or light consumption of alcohol taken in conjunction with the common pain killer acetaminophen (paracetamol) may increase the risk of kidney dysfunction. This is according to a study presented at the 141st annual American Public Health Association meeting in Boston, MA.
The American Kidney Fund states that in 2009, the US saw 116,395 new kidney failure diagnoses, 571,414 people living with kidney failure and 90,118 deaths from the disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive alcohol and frequent use of certain painkillers may both individually lead to kidney damage and acute kidney failure.
But researchers from Parker University in Texas wanted to determine whether low to moderate use of painkillers and consumption of alcohol could have any effect on the kidneys.
For their study, the researchers analyzed data from the 2003/04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which involved more than 10,000 participants.
The questions in the survey asked participants about their alcohol consumption, health conditions and use of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is commonly used to reduce pain in many conditions, such as headache, muscle aches and arthritis. It is also used to reduce fevers.
The data gathered from the surveys was then used to estimate the population of adults in the US who are exposed to these factors.
Findings 'worrying for young adults'
Findings revealed that 2.6% of the 10,000 participants reported using acetaminophen in combination with consumption of low to moderate amounts of alcohol. Of these participants, 1.2% reported kidney dysfunction.
Acetaminophen usage and low to moderate alcohol consumption were not considered as individual risk factors for kidney damage. But together, the researchers found they demonstrated an increased risk of 123%.
"Although individually it may not be harmful to ingest therapeutic dose of acetaminophen and a light/moderate amount of alcohol, combining the two may be potentially hazardous," note the researchers.
Harrison Ndetan, of Parker University and lead researcher of the study, says these findings are particularly worrying for young adults:
"Pain is the most common symptom among the general public and is also most frequently self-treated with acetaminophens."
"Where this becomes a greater concern is among young adults, who have a higher prevalence of alcohol consumption.
These findings highlight a serious concern among health professionals who deal frequently with pain patients, particularly those with mild pain who are more susceptible to consuming both."
The researchers note that medical professionals who treat patients who are likely to use acetaminophen for pain treatment should warn them of the potential risks.
Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that young transplant patients may be at higher risk of kidney disease.