The major function of the kidneys is to remove waste and extra fluid from the body. The kidneys help regulate and maintain the balance of chemicals in the body. When alcohol is in your system, these functions may become impaired, leading to health issues. Long-term use of alcohol can even lead to kidney failure.
Drinking alcohol takes a toll on your body and may lead to unwanted health consequences. If you or a loved one is having trouble controlling their drinking habits, consider professional treatment options, such as the addiction recovery programs at Crestview Recovery.
How Does Alcohol Affect Kidneys?
The kidneys can’t function properly when alcohol is in your system. When working properly, the kidneys filter about half a cup of blood and process the waste into urine. This function of the kidneys is impaired when alcohol is present in the body. When the kidneys can’t process the usual amount of blood, waste, and excess fluid is not filtered. This can lead to lead to harmful toxins being absorbed back into the body.
Drinking alcohol causes the body to become dehydrated, which puts stress on the kidneys. When someone is dehydrated, the kidneys typically store water. However, alcohol disables this function. Dehydration affects multiple parts of the body, but the kidneys are especially sensitive.
Another primary function of the kidneys is to help regulate blood pressure. Alcohol makes blood cells constrict, which causes high blood pressure. The kidneys respond to high blood pressure by decreasing the volume of blood cells. When the body is dehydrated, the kidneys have to work overtime to retain water and remove waste simultaneously.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on Kidneys
Blood Pressure Impact
The kidneys are one of the body functions that controls blood pressure. To regulate blood pressure, the kidneys reduce the volume as the pressure rises. The kidneys are very sensitive to changes in blood pressure, so large spikes caused by alcohol can be dangerous. The immediate effect of alcohol causes blood pressure to drop, followed by a massive increase in pressure.
Alcohol causes the body to become dehydrated, forcing the kidneys to retain water. This conflicts with the increased urine output that occurs from drinking. The kidneys determine the body is dehydrated based on the concentration of electrolytes. Alcohol increases the amount of liquid in the body but decreases the amount of electrolytes. Therefore, the liver experiences both an increase in urine production and a decrease in hydration. The kidneys are forced to produce more and less urine concurrently, causing severe strain.
Vasopressin is a hormone in the brain, suppressed by the effects of alcohol. This hormone directly affects the kidney, leading to suppressed urine production. The kidneys are forced to work at a higher level to produce urine. This causes high urine output that causes a large amount of stress on the kidneys.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Kidneys
Glomerulonephritis is a condition caused by alcohol that leads to inflammation and damage in the kidneys. Long-term alcohol addiction suppresses the immune system, which makes it difficult for the kidneys to heal. Glomerulonephritis can have serious short and long-term effects if left untreated.
Chronic Kidney Disease
When the kidneys can’t function properly, you are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. This condition is typically permanent and may require dialysis. Dialysis is a form of life support that performs the function of the kidneys that filters waste. Long-term alcohol users are two times more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. Smoking, in addition to drinking, increases the chances of chronic kidney disease by five times.
Phosphate builds up in bones when the kidney is severely damaged because it can’t be removed from the body. Calcium and phosphate are essential to bone health, but an imbalance can lead to health problems. An increase in phosphate leads to thinning of the bones, making them more prone to injury.
The fluctuation of blood pressure caused by alcohol over time can increase the risk of diabetes. Alcohol exacerbates the symptoms of diabetes, leading to further kidney damage. If you are at risk of developing diabetes, it is best to stay away from alcohol.
What Are the First Signs of Kidney Damage From Alcohol?
Alcohol can cause damage to the kidneys, but no signs are specifically related to alcohol. The conditions the body endures while drinking alcohol lead to the partial or total impairment of the kidneys. You may not experience symptoms of kidney damage from moderate consumption of alcohol. Heavy drinking or “binge drinking” will eventually lead to significant kidney damage.
Numerous conditions, including alcohol addiction, lead to kidney damage, so it is critical to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Some signs of kidney damage include:
- Red or pink urine
- Foamy urine
- Increase in frequency and amount of urination
- Decrease in frequency and amount of urination
- Trouble sleeping
- Swelling in the legs and feet
- Lowered energy levels
- Skin irritation
- Muscle cramps
- Lower back pain
- Loss of appetite
Although these are signs of kidney damage, a medical professional must diagnose you to get accurate results. Kidney damage can be a life-threatening condition, so it is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
How is Kidney Damage Treated?
There is no specific cure for kidney damage, but treatment alleviates some of the symptoms and prevents further damage.
Those with kidney damage typically have to make changes in their lifestyle. Some changes that may curb the effects of kidney damage include:
- Quit substance use
- Eat a healthy diet
- Reduce sodium intake
- Regular exercise
- Lose weight if obese
- Avoid over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen
Engaging in a healthy lifestyle will help the body recover from any damage suffered before. Healthy living improves all functions of the body which work together to bring about healing. All systems of the body must function properly to avoid further health issues.
There is no medicine specifically designed to cure kidney damage, but medicine may be used to treat symptoms that go along with it. A multitude of health issues arise from kidney damage, so it is important to receive proper treatment.
A small percentage of people with kidney damage lose the entire function of the organ. This will not happen immediately, so you will have time to plan. One option for people with kidney failure is dialysis. Dialysis is a process that removes waste and excess fluid from the blood.
There are two types of dialysis:
- Hemodialysis- the blood is passed through an external machine that filters the blood before returning to the body.
- Peritoneal dialysis- dialysis fluid is pumped into the stomach to draw out waste products from the blood as it passes through the stomach lining.
Dialysis is typically a lifelong treatment without a kidney transplant. Consult with your doctor before proceeding with any sort of treatment measures.
A kidney transplant is an alternative to dialysis treatment for those with kidney failure. This is the most effective treatment for kidney failure, but it involves major surgery and lifelong medicine use to stop the body from rejecting the donor organ.
It is possible to live with only one kidney, so a transplant can come from a family member or a recently deceased donor. However, the waitlist for a kidney transplant can be months to years long.
Survival rates are very high for kidney transplants. After five years, 90% of kidney transplants still work and can last well over 10 years.
Can Kidney Damage From Alcohol Be Reversed?
The kidneys can recover from the damage caused by alcohol after a period of abstinence. The extreme changes the body experiences while using alcohol can cause severe impairment and even failure of the kidneys. Studies have shown that four weeks of sober living can lead to full healing of the kidneys. Eliminating alcohol is the best cure.
Once heavy drinking has been removed, the kidneys typically return to normal. However, long-term alcoholism can cause permanent damage to the kidneys. Recovery of the kidneys depends on the circumstances of each individual.
Alcohol Rehab Treatment at Crestview
Kidney damage is one of the many health problems caused by drinking alcohol. Misusing alcohol can be a dangerous and even life-threatening activity. Although it may be seen as an enjoyable pastime activity, it can severely impact your livelihood.
Addiction is a disease that requires treatment. It can be hard to accept when you have a problem, but it is the first step on the road to recovery. Alcohol addiction may seem impossible to overcome, but there is hope.
Our alcohol rehab program is designed to help people from all walks of life achieve sober living. We work with each client individually to develop a treatment plan best suited to their needs. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact us!