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How Pain Medications Adversely Affect the Kidneys

In my last post, I discussed the kidney’s role in the body. The kidney works as the filter system for the body, and their function can be impaired by certain medications. So why is it that these otherwise helpful medications adversely affect the kidneys?

I wrote primarily last time that pain medications classified as NSAIDs can adversely affect kidney function. NSAIDs decrease “the sensitivity of the nociceptor to painful stimuli induced by heat, trauma, of inflammation.” [1]All NSAIDs work by blocking cyclooxygenase, which is an enzyme that performs a key step in the synthesis of prostaglandins, which produce many effects in the body.[2] NSAIDs affect the kidney by affecting the following: 1) salt and water retention, 2) edema (excess tissue fluid), 3) high blood pressure, and 4) elevated potassium levels in the blood.[3] Furthermore, NSAIDs reduce blood flow to the kidneys.[4] This in turn makes them work more slowly, as the kidneys require adequate blood flow to work properly.[5] When the kidneys are not functioning in their normal capacity, fluid builds up in your body.[6] This fluid buildup increases blood pressure.[7] NSAIDs taken in high doses can cause this reduced blood flow to permanently damage kidney function.[8] This permanent damage can have dangerous consequences (see the last post about “The Role of the Kidney”).

As stated in the last post, these medicines have their place. However, they should not be abused, as there can be serious consequences. Further, if you already have kidney problems, it is best for you to consult your doctor about alternative medications.



[1] “Non-Steroidal Anti-Infalmmatory Drugs (NSAIDs) Overview,” available at http://www.buzzle.com/articles/non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs-nsaids-overview.html, (Accessed March 22, 2010).

[2] Linda Fugate, Ph.D, “What NSAIDs Do To Your Kidneys,” available at http://www.empowher.com/news/herarticle/2009/10/26/what-nsaids-do-your-kidneys?page=0,0, (Accessed March 22, 2010).

[3] Id.

[4] “Non-Steroidal Anti-Infalmmatory Drugs (NSAIDs) Overview,” available at http://www.buzzle.com/articles/non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs-nsaids-overview.html, (Accessed March 22, 2010).

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.




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