Analgesic Nephropathy

Analgesics or painkillers are very common medications that a doctor prescribes or a person may buy over the counter to relieve different kinds of pain (of any kind). They are usually safe when taken appropriately but may be harmful to the kidneys when abuse occurs. There are instances when the medication is taken correctly but still causes acute kidney failure.

Analgesic nephropathy is a chronic kidney disease that occurs when there is a long period of painkiller/s ingestion (usually years). Conditions that are likely to be associated with the constant need for painkiller medications are any chronic pain syndrome such as arthritis and headache. Not all types of analgesics causes analgesic nephropathy. Analgesic nephropathy may lead to kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant.


Signs and Symptoms

Most have limited manifestations until some degree of kidney damage has occurred.

  • Blood in the urine
  • Protein in the urine
  • Signs and symptoms related to kidney failure such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, swelling, and poor appetite


  • Avoid long-term consumption of analgesics (especially without doctor’s supervision)
  • Those already with kidney disease of other kinds should certainly refrain from harmful analgesics as much as possible
  • Remember to check with your doctor as to the safety of the analgesics that is currently being taken

Note that many traditional Chinese herbal medications that relieve pain may also contain similar harmful substances.