Back pain is a common complaint, particularly as people get older. While this can often be chalked up to muscle injury or stress, persistent lower back pain or flank pain can be a symptom of serious kidney disease. The quality of the pain is often an important clue to different types of kidney disease. It is important not to self-diagnose and to get to a doctor if back pain is persistent.
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Types of Pain And Symptoms
Flank pain can be sudden and stabbing, or dull and achy. It can remain localized in one spot or seem to move to different regions on your lower back and sides.
This pain can also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as frequent and painful urination, fever, nausea, and fatigue.
Be prepared to carefully define the problem for your doctor because the type of pain and the presence of additional symptoms are important clues to diagnosis.
Kidney or urethral stones are one of the most common causes of flank pain, according to Medline Plus. This pain is often very sharp and acute. It is so severe that drug addicts often claim a history of stones when attempting to get drugs from medical providers. The pain itself may migrate as the stone works its way through the ureters, becoming more and more painful the further the stone is from the bladder.
Other than pain, passing of stones can be uneventful. However, chronic obstructions can cause irreversible damage. It is important to contact a doctor whenever you experience this type of pain.
Dull pain is more often associated with moderately advanced chronic kidney disease. Such diseases include diabetic nephropathy, IgA nephropathy, FSGS, renal dysplasia, or any of the many diseases that cause scarring of the tiny kidney filters called glomeruli.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, although flank pain is uncommon in the early stages, it often appears in later stages of disease. The exact cause of this pain is unknown.
Dull, achey pain can also be associated with urinary tract infections or UTIs. The urinary tract includes the bladder, the ureters and the kidneys. If the infection is localized in the kidneys, the infection is called pyelonephritis. This requires prompt treatment to prevent permanent kidney damage.
Other symptoms that are common to UTIs are painful urination, fever and nausea.
Back pain can also be indicative of kidney tumors. According to Anton J. Bueschen, author of the chapter on flank pain appearing in the volume "Clinical Methods", pain "is not the most common presenting symptom, and when pain is present, it often is associated with other symptoms." Usually this type of pain accompanies advanced tumors.