We all know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for our health. But, this is especially true for alcohol and your kidneys. Having a few drinks now and then won’t typically affect your health. However, misusing alcohol and alcohol use disorder (AUD) can affect the kidneys and lead to kidney disease. If you are struggling with AUD, treatment at Discovery Institute can help you. 

Alcohols Effect on Your Kidneys

Your kidneys handle many vital functions for your body. For instance, your kidneys filter out toxins and other harmful substances from your blood and body. They also help your body maintain a healthy level of water. However, if your kidneys are damaged in any way, your whole body suffers.

If you drink alcohol regularly or you misuse alcohol, it affects your kidneys in many ways. Alcohol’s effect on your kidneys can limit their ability to filter toxins, including alcohol. Alcohol also causes changes to the kidneys. However, these changes reduce the kidney’s filtering ability. This change causes them to work harder. As a result, toxins start to build in your blood. 

Additionally, dehydration is another one of alcohol’s effects on your kidneys. This effect makes it hard to keep normal water levels in the body. As a result, other organs and cells in your body are poorly affected. 

Chronic Drinking of Alcohol and Your Kidneys

The chronic misuse of alcohol also increases blood pressure. If you drink more than 2 drinks a day, you are at risk of high blood pressure. And, high blood pressure commonly leads to kidney disease. 

Furthermore, if you misuse alcohol, it can lead to liver disease. And, liver disease puts stress on the kidneys. Liver disease reduces healthy blood flow in the kidneys. For this reason, the kidneys can’t filter the blood properly. Unfortunately, many Americans suffering from both liver and kidney disease also suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Alcohol and Kidney Pain: What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Kidneys?

Your kidneys are vital to keeping your body healthy and free of toxins. Your kidneys filter waste out of your body through the urine. They also help maintain a balance of fluid and electrolytes. 

When you drink alcohol, the kidneys have to work extra hard. Therefore, one effect of alcohol on the kidneys is pain. Additionally, urinating often is another effect of alcohol on kidneys. You will typically urinate more because of the flushing of alcohol from the body. This flushing can lead to dehydration and kidney pain. 

Symptoms of Alcohol Damage to Kidneys

After drinking, you may feel soreness around your kidneys. You will feel this soreness on both sides of your spine under the ribcage. It may be sudden, sharp, or stabbing pain. But, it could be a dull pain.  Some people may feel it on one side, while others feel it on both. 

Kidney pain can sometimes be hard to pinpoint. You may feel it in the upper or lower back. However, some feel kidney pain between the buttocks and the lower ribs. Alcohol may cause instant kidney pain. But, it may not cause pain until after you stop drinking. 

Symptoms of the alcohol effects on the kidneys:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Appetite loss 
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fever
  • Chills

The Link Between Alcohol and Kidney Disease

Although many factors can lead to kidney disease, chronic AUD is a common one. Even though your family history and lifestyle affect your risk of kidney disease, alcohol greatly increases your chance of developing kidney disease. 

If you misuse alcohol, you will start to experience issues with your kidneys. But, chronic misuse increases these issues. As a result, you can develop kidney damage and kidney disease.

Moreover, if you develop kidney disease from alcohol or any other reason, you will also have other health issues. 

Alcohol and kidney disease also leads too:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Bone weakness
  • Fluid retention
  • Swelling in the arms, legs, and feet
  • Damage to the central nervous system
  • Trouble breathing
  • Damage to the immune system
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Seizures

Binge Drinking Alcohol and Kidney Disease

If you are a binge drinker, then you put yourself in the increasing danger of kidney disease. Binge drinking is consuming 4 to 5 plus drinks an hour. However, binge drinking floods your body with alcohol and increases BAC drastically. As a result, your kidneys can’t keep up and lose their function. This damage from alcohol on your kidneys causes lasting damage.

An Effect of Alcohol on Kidneys is Acute Kidney Injury

Acute kidney injury can happen if you binge drink. Acute kidney injury occurs when toxins build-up in the blood faster than the kidneys can filter. This injury to kidneys from alcohol can lead to pain and symptoms such as:

  • Decrease in urinating
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen face, arms, and legs
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain or pressure

Additionally, if you have acute kidney injury and don’t seek treatment, it can lead to seizures or a coma. 

Urinary Tract Infection is an Effect of Alcohol on Kidneys

Although indirectly, alcohol can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). And UTIs typically spread to the bladder. As a result, it causes kidney pain. 

Because alcohol increases acidity, it irritates the lining of the bladder. Also, when you drink alcohol, the kidneys become dehydrated. This effect also increases the risk of a UTI. 

Besides kidney pain, symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • An urge to urinate with very little coming out
  • Dark or smelly urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Stomach and back pain
  • A fever

Chronic Kidney Disease: Alcohols Effect on Kidneys

If you continue to drink regularly or have a chronic alcohol use disorder, you’re at risk of chronic kidney disease. The stress put on your kidneys over time forces them to work harder. This stress also damages the liver.

Chronic kidney disease is a severe condition. But, above all, it is life-threatening. If you have chronic kidney disease from alcohol, it’s essential to seek treatment for both conditions. 

The Effects of Alcohol on One Kidney

Even though most people have two kidneys, it only takes one kidney to function. But, if you have only one kidney, you must live a healthy lifestyle. So, if you have one kidney and drink alcohol, you can cause life-threatening issues. 

A healthy lifestyle includes a nutritious diet, exercise, and regular check-ups. This means no alcohol. This risk of kidney disease from alcohol is drastically increased with only one kidney. 

Although you can remain healthy with one kidney, drinking alcohol causes damage beyond your one kidney. Remember, kidney damage and disease can lead to other health issues. 

Effects of Having One Kidney: Short and Long-Term Problems

Your kidneys have a primary role in balancing fluid in your body. It also keeps the protein in the blood and controls blood pressure. However, alcohol stresses your kidneys. So, if you have one kidney, the damage could cause that kidney to fail. 

Can You Drink Alcohol With One Kidney?

Can you drink alcohol? Technically yes. But, does it increase your risk of life-threatening issues? Also yes. So, even though you can drink alcohol, it is not a good idea.

Alcohol affects all of your body’s organs. However, the effects of alcohol on one kidney lead to multiple issues. Although drinking one to two drinks a day typically won’t be an issue, if you have one kidney, it will.

When you drink, you will generally urinate more. But, your kidney is not filtering any blood. So, alcohol is still in your blood. This effect of alcohol on kidneys leads to an imbalance in fluids and electrolytes. As a result, you may become dehydrated. 

When your body doesn’t have enough fluids, you can’t function right. The cells in your organs, including your kidneys, can’t function properly. This causes damage to the kidneys. For this reason, if you have one kidney and drink alcohol, it can be life-threatening. 

Alcohol and Kidney Disease: Prevention

To help prevent kidney disease from alcohol, you can reduce how much you drink. This includes avoiding binge drinking. If you do drink alcohol, it’s crucial also to drink water. 

However, if you have chronic kidney disease, you shouldn’t drink at all. So, if you struggle with misusing alcohol, it’s vital to seek treatment. If you only treat the kidney disease and continue to drink, you will not get better. 

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse and Kidney Disease

Treatment for AUD varies depending on your needs. If you struggle with chronic alcohol misuse, treatment begins with a medical detox program. Afterward, treatment may involve a variety of therapies in either inpatient or outpatient settings.

Treatment for AUD may include:

  • Detox and withdrawal – Medical detox provides a safe place for you to withdrawal from alcohol. Detox typically lasts up to 7 days, but that also depends on the person.
  • Psychotherapy – Therapies in individual and group settings are a vital part of treatment. Therapy sessions can help you better understand yourself and your issue with alcohol. Because family is crucial in treatment, family therapy is often part of treatment. 
  • Medication management – For some people with AUD, the use of medications in treatment is vital. The changes that alcohol causes to the brain can be lethal when a person stops drinking. 
  • Treatment for other mental health issues – Many people who misuse alcohol also have a mental disorder. As a result, dual diagnosis treatment offers whole-person treatment. It also lowers a person’s relapse rate. 
  • Holistic or alternative therapies – Many treatment centers offer holistic therapies. These therapies may include yoga, meditation, mindfulness. 

Treating Alcohol Use Disorder at Discovery Institute

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, we can help. All it takes is one phone call. Our caring staff is waiting to show you how to take your life back. Contact us today for more treatment information. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.