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Kidney Damage from Alcohol: Signs & Symptoms

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 21, 2024

Table of Contents

Consuming alcohol can impact many parts of the body, including the kidneys. In moderation – that is, consuming one or two drinks on occasion – alcohol tends to trigger few adverse effects. That said, excessive alcohol consumption can jeopardize your overall health and exacerbate kidney-related issues. Read on to learn all about alcohol-related kidney damage.

What Are the Signs of Kidney Damage from Alcohol?

Detecting kidney damage from alcohol consumption can help guide timely intervention. Watch for the following signs that may indicate kidney damage from drinking:

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  • Look for alterations in your urination habits, such as increased frequency, dark-colored urine, or difficulty urinating. These changes could signal damage to kidneys to alcohol.
  • Noticeable swelling in your legs, ankles, or face may indicate alcohol effects on kidneys. This can occur as the kidneys struggle to regulate fluid balance.
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness, or a general lack of energy can be signs of kidney damage triggered by alcohol – the kidneys play a key role in maintaining overall vitality.
  • Elevated blood pressure levels may be a sign of kidney damage. Alcohol can trigger hypertension, which in turn can harm the kidneys.
  • Kidney pain often presents as discomfort in the lower back or abdomen. If you experience persistent, unexplained pain in these areas, seek prompt medical attention.

Symptoms of Kidney Damage from Alcohol

Symptoms of kidney damage resulting from excessive alcohol consumption can manifest in many different ways. Developing an awareness of these signs could be life-saving.

  • Kidney pain: Kidney pain is a common symptom of kidney damage. It can be felt as a dull ache or sharp pain in the lower back or abdominal area.
  • Frequent urination: An increased need to urinate, especially during the night, can be a sign of kidney problems.
  • Decreased urine output: Reduced urine output or oliguria is a sign of kidney impairment. It may result in darker, concentrated urine.
  • Blood in urine: Hematuria, or the presence of blood in urine, is a concerning symptom that requires urgent medical attention.
  • High blood pressure: Hypertension is a potential consequence of kidney damage from alcohol. Consistently high blood pressure levels should be addressed promptly.
  • Swelling: Edema, or swelling – particularly in the legs, ankles, and face – can indicate fluid retention due to kidney dysfunction.
  • Fatigue and weakness: Ongoing fatigue, weakness, or a general sense of lethargy may be attributed to impaired kidney function.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Kidney damage can lead to nausea, vomiting, and a general feeling of unwellness.
  • Decreased appetite: A noticeable loss of appetite may accompany kidney issues.

If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect alcohol-related kidney damage, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and guidance on appropriate management and treatment. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve the prognosis of kidney-related issues caused by alcohol consumption.

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Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Failure?

Alcohol consumption, especially when excessive and chronic, can provoke kidney failure. Alcoholism and kidney failure occur when the kidneys are severely damaged and are unable to perform their vital functions, such as filtering waste products and excess fluids from the blood. Here are some key points to consider regarding alcohol’s role in kidney failure:

  • Alcohol-related kidney damage: Prolonged and heavy alcohol use can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to filter waste effectively. This can lead to a condition known as alcoholic nephropathy, which is a precursor to kidney failure.
  • Increased blood pressure: Alcohol can raise blood pressure, and hypertension is a significant risk factor for kidney disease. Chronic high blood pressure may contribute to kidney failure over time.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it promotes fluid loss through increased urination. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with dehydration, which can strain the kidneys and impair their function.
  • Acute kidney injury: Binge drinking or acute alcohol poisoning can cause a sudden decline in kidney function, leading to AKI (acute kidney injury). While AKI can sometimes be reversible, it may also contribute to the progression of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure if not addressed promptly.
  • Other risk factors: Alcohol use often accompanies other risk factors for kidney disease, such as smoking, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. These factors, combined with alcohol abuse, can increase the likelihood of kidney problems.

Can Kidneys Recover from Alcohol Damage?

The ability of kidneys to regenerate from alcohol-related damage hinges on several factors, including the extent of the damage, the duration of alcohol abuse, and the person’s general health.

In cases of mild to moderate kidney damage resulting from alcohol, early intervention  – adopting a healthier lifestyle and abstaining from alcohol – can lead to partial or complete recovery of kidney function.

Chronic and severe kidney damage caused by long-term alcohol abuse may not be fully reversible. Having said that, quitting alcohol and adhering to medical recommendations can help slow the progression of kidney disease and improve overall kidney health.

In cases of acute kidney injury due to alcohol poisoning or binge drinking, the kidneys may recover fully with prompt medical treatment, especially if the underlying cause (alcohol) is eliminated.

Each person’s response to alcohol-related kidney damage varies. Some people may experience substantial recovery with lifestyle changes, while others may face more significant challenges in regaining kidney function.

Seek medical advice and support if you suspect alcohol-related kidney damage or kidney issues of any kind. Early detection and intervention can be pivotal in preserving kidney function and preventing the progression to kidney failure. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle, including abstinence from alcohol, can significantly improve the chances of kidney recovery and overall well-being.


Can you get kidney damage from alcohol?

Yes, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to kidney damage. Alcohol dehydrates the body, affecting the ability of the kidneys to regulate body fluids and electrolytes, and can also cause a rise in blood pressure, a risk factor for kidney problems.

Can alcohol affect kidneys long-term?

Yes, alcohol can affect kidneys long-term. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to persistent dehydration and high blood pressure, both of which are harmful to the kidneys. Over time, this can result in chronic kidney disease or even kidney failure.

Does alcohol cause kidney failure?

Chronic and heavy alcohol consumption can potentially lead to kidney failure. This occurs as a result of long-term damage to the kidneys from dehydration, high blood pressure, and the toxic effects of alcohol on kidney tissues.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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