Kidney pain after drinking alcohol may occur due to acute kidney injury or an infection. Moderate drinking should not cause kidney pain, but binge drinking or frequent drinking may cause kidney problems.

The kidneys help filter the blood, including by filtering out harmful substances such as alcohol.

Kidney pain usually appears in the back, on either side of the spine, just under the ribs. A person who experiences this type of pain, especially if it intensifies over hours or days, may have a serious illness and should speak to a doctor.

In this article, learn more about the causes of kidney pain and how they might be related to drinking alcohol.

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Moderate alcohol consumption should not cause kidney pain, but various factors may lead to kidney pain after a high intake.

Acute kidney injury

Binge drinking, or drinking numerous drinks in just a few hours, can cause an acute kidney injury.

An acute kidney injury can occur when waste accumulates in the blood at a faster rate than the kidneys can filter it out.

In addition to kidney pain, a person with an acute kidney injury may also notice the following symptoms:

Without treatment, a person with an acute kidney injury may have a seizure or go into a coma.

However, more research is needed into the link between alcohol use and kidney injury.

Urinary tract infection

Alcohol may indirectly increase the risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs that spread to the bladder may cause kidney pain.

Alcohol increases the acidity of urine and can irritate the lining of the bladder. A person who drinks alcohol can become dehydrated, increasing the risk of a UTI.

In addition to kidney pain, some symptoms of a UTI include:

Kidney issues unrelated to alcohol

Drinking does not cause all types of kidney pain. The timing of the pain could be a coincidence, or the alcohol could have intensified an existing problem.

Kidney stones are another possible cause of pain. A person may feel intense back pain or pain in their genitals or stomach as the body attempts to pass the stone. Some people also develop a fever. If the body does not pass the stone, a person can develop a severe infection or blockage.

Sustaining a physical injury to the kidneys, such as by falling from a height, may also cause kidney pain.

It is important to see a doctor for any and all kidney pain, whether it is related to alcohol consumption or not.

A person is at risk of different complications depending on the underlying cause of the kidney pain.

For example, a person with a UTI that spreads to the kidneys can develop sepsis, a dangerous infection of the blood.

The possible complications of uncontrolled or untreated kidney disease include:

  • gout, a type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid accumulates in the blood
  • anemia, which develops when the body does not have enough red blood cells
  • high levels of phosphorous, which may cause bone conditions such as osteoporosis
  • dangerously high potassium levels
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • fluid buildup and swelling in the body
  • failure of other organs, such as the liver

The kidneys are the body’s primary tool for filtering out dangerous substances, so issues affecting the kidneys can quickly affect the rest of the body, potentially causing problems in multiple organs.

Contact a doctor for:

  • pain in the kidneys
  • symptoms of a UTI
  • a recent blow to the back that causes pain in the kidneys
  • a fever along with kidney pain
  • decreased urination, even when drinking enough water

Go to the emergency room or urgent care for:

  • signs of acute kidney injury after drinking
  • intense pain in the back or kidneys
  • a high fever and kidney pain
  • high blood pressure and kidney pain
  • loss of consciousness, blurred vision, or changes in awareness
  • a seizure

The right treatment option for kidney pain related to alcohol depends on the cause.

Some treatment options may include:

  • antibiotics for a UTI
  • pain medication
  • electrolytes or intravenous fluids to manage dehydration
  • short term dialysis to remove accumulated toxins from acute kidney injury
  • dietary and lifestyle changes to support kidney function
  • medication to lower blood pressure and treat other symptoms

Reducing alcohol intake can lessen the risk of alcohol-related kidney disease.

Avoid binge drinking, and drink plenty of water if drinking alcohol. People with chronic kidney disease should not drink alcohol at all, and they can speak to a doctor for help with quitting if they are finding it challenging.

Some strategies that can improve kidney health and reduce the risk of kidney disease include:

  • avoiding tobacco
  • not drinking alcohol
  • adopting a healthful, balanced diet
  • drinking plenty of water
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • treating any other medical conditions, such as diabetes

Not all forms of kidney disease are preventable, but adopting a healthful lifestyle may reduce the risk of complications, even in people with genetic kidney disorders.

Here are some questions people often ask about kidney pain after drinking alcohol.

Why does my kidney hurt after drinking alcohol?

One reason alcohol may affect the kidneys is through acute kidney injury. This may result from high levels of toxins leading to tissue injury and inflammation. It can happen with binge drinking.

A high alcohol intake may also increase the risk of other problems that can hurt the kidneys, such as a urinary tract infection, high blood pressure, and long-term kidney damage.

What are the first signs of kidney damage due to alcohol?

Some signs of kidney damage for any reason, including alcohol, are:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • a low urine output
  • fatigue
  • swelling of the feet
  • confusion

These are signs that the kidneys are not working as they should, and they can be symptoms of acute kidney injury due to a high alcohol consumption.

Can kidneys recover from alcohol damage?

Acute kidney injury, which is a sudden drop in kidney function, can occur after binge drinking. It often goes away over time, but some people may need dialysis until kidney function improves. It can also cause lasting damage that can lead to long-term kidney problems.

Kidney pain can be intense. It is the body’s way of warning of a potentially serious medical condition, so it is best not to ignore it.

Seeing a doctor as soon as possible helps ensure appropriate treatment and can reduce the risk of complications.