Contributed by: Dr. Snehal Singh
Are you aware that your daily dose of medicines is damaging your kidneys? Many of us take medicines on a regular basis, without knowing their side effects, especially on our kidneys. Unless we have a problem, we often tend to ignore such issues. But if you are a habitual pill-popper, the knowledge of how your regular medicines are impacting your kidneys is essential.
The kidneys play an important role in filtering toxins from our body, which helps us remain healthy. While food, drink and everything we consume has an effect on the kidneys, it is important to know how medicines affect the kidneys and the need of monitoring kidney health.
Know How Medicines Affect the Kidneys
The most important functions of the kidneys are
- To remove waste products or toxins out of the body through urine
- To maintain fluid balance
- To regulate blood pressure
- To produce certain hormones required for production of red blood cells
As kidneys work hard to maintain these functions, any damage to kidneys can affect these functions and ultimately your health. Kidney damage is often caused when the blood pressure drops below the normal level or there is excessive loss of fluids. As both these functions are managed by the kidneys, sudden imbalance makes it difficult for the kidneys to perform. If this continues for long, it can severely affect the kidney functions.
Medicines used to treat various medical conditions can greatly affect the kidneys by causing imbalances in these kidney functions. Some medicines reduce the blood flow to the kidneys, while some cause loss of fluids from the body. This results in a fluid imbalance, which affects the kidneys and increases the risk of kidney damage. Some medicines may be difficult to metabolise and hence have a risk of building up in the kidneys, which can further cause kidney damage.
Medications That Can Cause Kidney Damage
If you know the medications that can cause kidney damage, you can be cautious when taking them. Here are some of the medications that can cause kidney damage and must be taken only after medical advice:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These medicines are present in painkillers, cold and cough combinations and some medicines that induce sleep.
- Some high blood pressure medicines affect the kidneys in various ways and need to be monitored well.
- Various antibiotics prescribed to treat infections can affect the kidneys too. Long-term use of antibiotics can be harmful particularly if you have kidney problems, as they can cause more damage.
- Medicines used to treat hyperacidity or peptic ulcer, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune disorders when taken for long can increase the risk of kidney damage.
- Medicines that contain lithium often used to treat bipolar disorders too can cause kidney damage.
- Certain medicines and dyes used during scans and imaging studies can also affect the kidneys.
- Medicines used in the treatment of major illnesses like cancer chemotherapy, some medicines that treat hyperthyroidism and antiviral medicines that treat HIV are often harmful to the kidneys.
- Some herbal medicines and nutritional supplements too can cause kidney damage.
- Medicines which contain various salts like sodium, phosphorus, calcium, etc. can disturb the salt and water balance and greatly affect the kidneys in the long run; hence are best taken only if prescribed.
Keeping Kidneys Safe
Chronic pain condition, arthritis, high blood pressure and other medical conditions may require long-term use of medicines that can cause kidney damage. Anti-inflammatory drugs safe for kidneys can help to manage pain and inflammation while protecting the kidneys from damage. For long-term chronic pain conditions, kidney-safe painkillers are often prescribed to people with kidney problems, heart disease and high blood pressure. However, higher doses of anti-inflammatory drugs safe for kidneys are not advisable. Also, check with your doctor to avoid interaction of these kidney safe painkillers with other medicines you may be already taking.
The most important step in keeping kidneys safe is to religiously follow medical advice and your prescription. If you have health concerns or kidney problems, seek a medical opinion to find the best possible treatment. If you note problems or feel that a particular medicine does not suit you, talk to your physician and get the best alternative. So, even if you go for over-the-counter products, remember that anti-inflammatory drugs safe for kidneys are also available.
Assessing Kidney Damage
Kidney damage is assessed by performing blood tests called kidney function tests, which detect levels of creatinine, urea and other salts. This is an important blood investigation, which can help to determine the kidney function and assess the need to prescribe kidneys safe medicines. If the kidneys are damaged and their function is diminished, the results will be abnormal.
Now that you are aware of the fact that medicines can affect the kidneys, follow medical advice and dosing instructions properly and only for the prescribed time. Be informed and choose wisely for better health!
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