ABC Medical Center > Digital magazine > Don’t let medicines damage your kidneys!

Don’t let medicines damage your kidneys!

7 February 2023

Key points:

  • Anti-inflammatories and antibiotics are commonly linked to kidney damage.
  • Kidney disease occupies one of the first 10 causes of death worldwide.
  • Annual lab tests are recommended to check kidney function.

Kidney disease is one of the first 10 causes of death worldwide. Although many factors can result in this, knowing or preventing the use of medications could help counteract some diseases.

Dr. Armando Vázquez Rangel, an internal medicine physician and nephrology specialist at ABC Medical Center, says that many commonly used medications could affect your kidneys for different reasons, such as in the case of analgesic nephropathy.

Why does this happen? The drugs enter the body orally or injected, but they must necessarily follow the following steps: be absorbed, enter the bloodstream, be distributed in the body, find their place of action, be metabolized, if applicable, and finally be eliminated since no medication should remain in the body.

Depending on the type of drug that was used, it can be removed from the body by one of two main routes: through the liver or the kidneys.

Analgesic nephropathy predominates in women (peak age of incidence is 50-55 years) and, in the United States, it accounts for 3-5% of cases of end-stage kidney disease (13-20% in Australia and South Africa).1

What kind of damage can medicines do to the kidneys?

There are different types of damage when using medicines, says Dr. Vazquez. Every organ of the body requires blood to supply it with oxygen and other nutrients, but speaking specifically of the kidneys, they use the blood to work on it and eliminate waste substances.

Some medicines reduce the amount of blood that reaches the kidneys, so they will work less.

On the other hand, since kidneys are a very complex machinery, similar to a distribution belt, they must choose what to eliminate, what to keep, and what to return to the body, but in this process, the medication could damage or destroy the kidneys’ cells.

This happens because sometimes the drugs that should have been eliminated in the kidneys can accumulate, damaging them.

There is also the possibility of causing an allergic reaction that can happen with any medication. Especially a reaction that is limited to the kidney and is known as acute nephritis, in case of very intense or extended exposure, it could lead to chronic kidney disease, also known as kidney failure.

What medications can cause kidney damage?

Anti-inflammatory painkillers are a type of medication commonly associated with kidney damage. Although they are freely available drugs, almost all of them can cause some level of damage.

In addition, any antibiotic can cause an allergic reaction (specific nephritis), but within these medications, there is a family called aminoglycosides, which have a higher potential risk of harm. Similarly, there are other drugs used in cancer treatment that can potentially damage the kidneys.

Counteract the possible damage of medications to your kidneys

Currently, no drug protects the kidneys from other drugs, but there are some steps you can take to try to prevent it, says Dr. Vazquez.

  • Do not self-medicate. Do not prescribe yourself any type of medication, the doctor must see your risk factors and decide what your body needs. This includes natural or herbal products since it has been reported that many teas can damage your kidneys.
  • Limit the use of medications. Regardless of whether they are painkillers or antibiotics, you should only use them for as long as your doctor recommended.
  • Good hydration. It is necessary to have good hydration, this will help keep the kidneys clean of toxins and prevent them from accumulating. It is recommended to drink two liters of unsweetened water per day, but this amount can increase depending on the heat or the physical activities performed.

It is very important to check your kidneys’ function, especially if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or cancer. It is recommended that you perform lab tests annually and see your doctor so they can prescribe the medications that have the least side effects.

At ABC Medical Center’s Internal Medicine area, we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!

Dr. Armando Vázquez Rangel – Internal medicine physician and nephrology specialist at ABC Medical Center

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