What causes kidney pain?

Kidney pain is caused by infection, inflammation, injury or enlargement of your kidney or by conditions that block the flow of urine out of your kidney. Pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and kidney stones are the most common causes of kidney pain. Many of the conditions that cause kidney enlargement develop gradually without much pain.

Urinary tract causes of kidney pain

Kidney pain may be caused by urinary tract diseases, disorders or conditions including:

  • Hydronephrosis (enlargement of the ureters, the tubes that drain the bladder)
  • Kidney cancer or tumors
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis (uncommon complication of streptococcal infections, such as strep throat and impetigo)
  • Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)
  • Renal calculi (kidney stones)
  • Simple kidney cysts

Other causes of kidney pain

Kidney pain can also have other causes including:

  • Side effect of brinzolamide (Azopt), an eye medication used to treat glaucoma
  • Trauma

Serious or life-threatening causes of kidney pain

In some cases, kidney pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Hydronephrosis or kidney problems in someone who has only one kidney
  • Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)
  • Renal or perinephric abscess (abscess in or near a kidney)
  • Renal infarction (blockage of an artery of the kidney leading to tissue damage and death)
  • Trauma

Questions for diagnosing the cause of kidney pain

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your kidney pain including:

  • When did you first notice your kidney pain?
  • Can you describe the pain?
  • Have you ever had pain like this before?
  • Have you had kidney problems before?
  • Did you have an infection before you developed kidney pain?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of kidney pain?

Because kidney pain can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Acute kidney failure
  • Kidney damage
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
  • Ureteral obstruction (blockage of the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder)


  1. Kidney stones. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000458.htm.
  2. Pyelonephritis (kidney infection) in adults. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/pyelonephritis/.

What is kidney pain?

The kidneys are paired organs located toward the back of your body, partially protected by your lower ribs. Your left kidney is slightly higher than your right. Pain from the kidneys tends to occur in the flanks or in the lower back just under the ribs, although it can extend into the groin and testicles. Pain from muscle strain, Read more about kidney painintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with kidney pain?

Kidney pain may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the urinary tract may also involve other body systems.

Urinary tract symptoms that may occur along with kidney pain

Kidney pain may accompany other symptoms affecting the urinary tract including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System

Popular Related Slide Show