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What Are The First Signs of Kidney Damage from Alcohol?

We have all experienced having to go to the bathroom more while drinking alcohol. It seems that once the person goes to the bathroom the first time, they will have to go every 15 minutes after that. You and your friends have experienced this numerous times, especially recently with the Tampa Bay Bucs clinching the NFC South title yet again. It is always laughable trying to plan running to the bathroom and beating your friends – all while grabbing another beer or drink – during media timeouts.

First signs of kidney damage

But during the game, you find that you don’t have to pee at all. In fact, most of your buddies have already gone two to three times while you haven’t. You drank as many shots and beers as they did, but haven’t felt the need to go like they have. You feel a little funny, confused about where you are and your legs feel heavy. Rolling your pant leg up you see your ankles are swollen and bulging out of your socks. Is something wrong with you? You decide to take a trip to the closest urgent care, where they tell you your kidneys are not functioning properly. All you can think is that the amount of alcohol may have had something to do with it. So, what now?

In 2022, 19.6% of Hillsborough County residents reported binge or heavy drinking. Many assume that alcohol only affects the liver and nothing else. At Clean Recovery Centers, we are bringing education to our Suncoast communities about the true effects of alcohol use and how detrimental they can be to the body. Our unique, three-phase approach is unlike any other that addresses all facets of addiction: physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Alcohol can have permanent effects on the brain, heart, and kidneys. What are the first signs of kidney damage from alcohol? Let’s take a look further.

How Does Alcohol Affect The Kidneys?

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes the kidneys to remove fluids from the body at a faster rate. When water is not consumed with alcohol, it can cause dehydration. The body views alcohol as a toxin, and the liver and kidneys are responsible for filtering it out. Prolonged, heavy drinking puts strain on the kidneys to keep filtering it out. Eventually, they can become damaged and stop functioning properly.

What Are The First Signs Of Kidney Damage From Alcohol?

If the kidneys are not functioning properly, toxins build up within the body. Some of the first signs of kidney damage from alcohol include:

  • Fatigue
  • Urination changes such as going more or less frequently
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

These symptoms may be mild and not strike any reason for concern. If mid/lower back pain accompanies any of the above symptoms, it is an indicator that there is a possible problem with the kidneys.

Short-Term Effects Of Alcohol On Kidneys

First signs of kidney damageWater, sports drinks, and electrolyte drinks are all good sources of hydration, while alcohol is a dehydrating beverage. Drinking alcohol in moderation or only having one or two drinks will not necessarily cause anything more than mild dehydration. However, binge drinking or heavy drinking can cause more severe dehydration that can have short-term effects on the kidneys.

Dehydration And Kidney Function

Dehydration is a condition in which the body loses more fluids than it takes in. Water is crucial to supporting the body and makes up over 2/3 of our composition. When water is depleted, the kidneys have a more difficult time trying to regulate key electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, and calcium. This causes various side effects such as fluid retention, swelling, and dizziness. When the kidneys are not able to function properly due to dehydration, they cannot filter alcohol out as quickly as water. This causes alcohol to build in the system and can raise the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

Does Blood Pressure Impact Kidney Function?

Those who drink often and heavily are more likely to have high blood pressure. This is due to changes in the dilation of blood vessels, creating more work for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. The kidneys are responsible for hormone balancing, including the hormone that regulates blood pressure. When the signals coming from the brain and heart are adjusting for high blood pressure, the kidneys cannot respond appropriately. The kidneys have to work harder to maintain blood pressure balance as well as continue the filtration process. Once drinking stops, acute kidney problems typically return to normal function. In the event that they do not, seek medical attention.

Long-Term Alcohol Effects On The Kidneys

Studies have been working to detect the connection between long-term alcohol use and kidney damage, but the results have been mostly inconclusive. The most common organs affected by alcohol use disorder are the liver, heart, and brain. However, there have been ties with these organs contributing to the damage to the kidneys.

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) From Alcohol Use

Acute kidney injury can occur for different reasons and is defined by sudden, impaired kidney function or a complete loss of function. Some underlying conditions may cause acute kidney injury but in the case of alcohol use, dehydration is a leading cause. Typically, acute kidney injury can go away with time. However, dialysis may be required to restore kidney function in the first place. Proper hydration and limiting drinking can help contribute to the healing process.

Alcoholic Kidney Disease

As we stated above, the kidneys are not necessarily directly affected by chronic alcohol use. While dehydration can cause complications, liver involvement is often the most common cause of alcoholic kidney disease. When the liver is compromised, it cannot detoxify the body properly. These toxins are then sent to the kidneys where they normally wouldn’t be present, leading to damage and possible failure.

Chronic Kidney Damage Due To Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is most likely to cause problems within the kidneys. The body can become overwhelmed by alcohol during binge drinking sessions, causing the kidneys to get behind in filtering it out. This causes a buildup of fluid in the body, leading to swelling and muscle pain. Electrolyte imbalance also makes it challenging for the kidneys to filter alcohol properly and efficiently. This can lead to acute kidney injury or failure.

Another problem associated with binge drinking is increased dehydration. We have all heard of or experienced a hangover after a night of excessive drinking. The headache, nausea, and dizziness are all unwelcome symptoms, but they are the body’s response to dehydration. It is crucial to begin hydrating at this time to keep kidney function at a normal level. Electrolyte sports drinks are best in this scenario as they help restore balance with key minerals while providing hydration.

Can Kidneys Recover From Alcohol Damage?

When no other underlying conditions are present, kidney function can be completely restored from excessive alcohol use. In as little as four weeks of refraining from drinking, the kidneys can return to 100% normal function. However, if the liver or heart are compromised, the kidneys will have a more difficult time healing completely. Alcohol is a toxin, and the longer the person continues drinking, the more likely permanent damage is to occur.

Seeking Rehab For Alcoholism In Tampa, FL

Alcohol can take away many areas of overall health, especially physical. Kidney and liver function are essential to everyday life, and if they become compromised by alcohol use, there may be no solution. Finding a treatment program complete with an alcohol detox and extensive therapy is the first step to begin healing in body and mind. It may seem impossible to stop drinking now, but opening the door to recovery will make the biggest difference in your life. You will feel liberated and free to discover your passions, interests, and what makes you unique.

If you or someone you love is managing an alcohol use disorder, don’t wait until kidney damage is a threat. Clean Recovery Centers has a full medical team that can address the physical concerns of alcohol use as well as mental health conditions associated with your use. We have housing certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) at all of our locations throughout the Suncoast. You will never have to worry about where you will stay or where your next meal will come from. Our team of dedicated and welcoming professionals is ready to help you begin your recovery journey. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to schedule an appointment.


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