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  • The kidneys are meant to filter harmful substances from the blood and stop extra waste from building up by expelling it through your urine. They also maintain the balance of electrolytes in the body. Some of the harmful substances it filters out include drugs and alcohol

    If you experience kidney pain after drinking alcohol, it can be because your kidneys are working overtime to expel the alcohol from your system. But kidney pain can also be a symptom of something more serious as well.

    Potential Causes Of Kidney Pain After Drinking

    Kidney pain may appear as a stabbing or sharp pain in the back on either side of your spine and just under the ribs. If it’s after heavy drinking, it can have a number of different causes. 

    Acute Kidney Injury

    Binge drinking or excessive alcohol consumption can cause acute kidney injury which can cause waste to build up in the blood at a faster rate than the kidneys can filter out. This can cause kidney pain as well as:

    • decreased urination
    • exhaustion
    • swollen legs or face
    • difficulty breathing
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • chest pressure

    When acute kidney injury occurs, treatment can be given in the form of dialysis until kidney function returns to normal.

    Urinary Tract Infection

    Alcohol can increase the risk of a urinary tract infection (UTI), and if a UTI spreads to the bladder, it can cause kidney pain. Alcohol causes a UTI by increasing the acidity in the urine which then irritates the lining of the bladder. 

    Besides kidney pain, the symptoms of a UTI may include:

    • pain when urinating
    • dark or smelly urine
    • blood in the urine
    • stomach or back pain
    • fever
    • frequent urge to urinate

    Kidney Stones

    Kidney stones are small hard deposits of minerals that form in the kidney. They can form because of alcohol-induced dehydration. 

    Alcohol is a diuretic that causes you to urinate more and become dehydrated, especially if you’re drinking a lot. This can cause kidney stones.

    Kidney stones alone can be painful but alcohol can cause them to move more quickly and be the pain you feel after drinking.

    You can try drinking plenty of water to flush them out, but you may need further treatment if the problem persists.

    Kidney Infection

    A kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that starts in the urethra or bladder and then moves to one or both kidneys. The symptoms and severity may get worse after drinking alcohol.

    It’s important you stop drinking alcohol as soon as the pain hits, drink lots of water and see a healthcare professional as soon as possible. 

    Chronic Kidney Disease

    Over time, drinking can increase the risk of kidney disease. This can be due to the kidneys needing to work harder to eliminate alcohol in the system as well as any damage the alcohol did to the liver. 

    Chronic kidney disease due to alcohol can lead to kidney pain and high blood pressure. 

    Treatment for chronic kidney disease includes dialysis and even a kidney transplant. Reducing your alcohol intake or quitting drinking can reduce the risk of kidney disease.

    Kidney Failure

    Kidney failure is a serious issue and needs treatment immediately. Besides kidney pain, symptoms of kidney failure include: 

    • fatigue
    • loss of appetite
    • headaches
    • sleep problems
    • trouble concentrating
    • swelling of legs and ankles
    • changes in urine

    Alcohol & Kidney Function

    Alcohol use and kidney function go hand in hand. Since the function of the kidneys is to remove toxins from the blood and alcohol is one of those toxins, alcohol affects how hard the kidneys need to work. 

    Excessive alcohol use can also cause liver disease and put even more strain on the kidneys. It impacts their ability to filter blood and regulate blood flow in the body.


    Alcohol also affects the kidneys by dehydrating the body. Since one of the kidney’s jobs is to keep the right amount of water in the body, this gives it another job to do.


    Additionally, excessive alcohol use can lead to vomiting. The kidneys also work to maintain the pH balance or the amount of acid in the body. When we vomit, we throw off the pH balance, giving the kidneys even more work. 

    How Much Alcohol Can Lead To Kidney Pain?

    While a small amount of alcohol won’t likely do serious damage to the kidneys, there are levels of alcohol that can lead to kidney pain or damage:

    • more than 3 drinks per day or more than 7 per week for women 
    • more than 4 drinks per day or more than 14 per week for men 
    • having 4-5 drinks in 2 hours

    If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, call us today to learn about our treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
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