Analgesic Nephropathy – Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Analgesic Nephropathy – Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


By Dr. Prashant C Dheerendra , Nephrology

The kidneys are found in the abdominal cavity of the body and help in the elimination of wastes and toxins. Yet, there are several instances and conditions where these functions may not take place in a proper manner. Various kinds of conditions and diseases may hinder the proper functioning of the kidney, leading to a need for medication or other forms of treatment like kidney transplant or even dialysis. One of these conditions is Analgesic nephropathy, also known as Phenacetin nephritis. This is a condition in which one or both kidneys are damaged because of the inappropriate use of pain killer medicines called NSAIDs(non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Excessive doses of painkillers for a long period of time give rise to the condition. There is damage in the internal structure of the kidney. It is responsible for a significant number of people needing dialysis.

Symptoms: In the beginning, there are no symptoms. With the continuous and long-term intake of pain medicines, the kidneys begin to get affected. This may give rise to decrease in kidney function, which may cause anaemia, hypertension, weakness, fatigue, increase in urinary frequency, the presence of blood in the urine, back pain, drowsiness, lethargy confusion, vomiting, nausea, swelling of the body and easy bleeding. It causes changes in behavior and emotions. Numbness and decreased sensation is also a symptom of analgesic nephropathy.

Causes: Analgesic nephropathy is usually caused by long-term use of pain killers belonging to the group of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The common brands are Imol, Voveran, Brufen, Nise.

Diagnosis: Examination of symptoms such as high blood pressure, abnormal sound from heart and lungs and premature aging will be conducted. Blood samples may be taken to examine the complete blood count. A CT scan and ultrasound of the kidney may be helpful.

Treatment: The aim of the treatment is to avoid any further damage to the kidney. It is necessary to stop the consumption of painkillers, or OTC drugs. Imaging studies of kidney, ureter, and bladder may be taken to check the blood flow to the kidney. Dialysis or kidney transplant can be done to treat kidney failure. Change in diet and restricted fluid intake can also help in preventing kidney diseases. Counselling can help in keeping a check on behavioural and emotional changes, while alternative methods to relieve chronic pain can be suggested.

Prevention: Analgesic toxicity can be avoided by discouraging and limiting the use of NSAIDs.