Your kidneys are located in the posterior part of your upper abdominal area just under your rib cage. You have one on either side of your spine. Because of the size and location of your liver, your right kidney tends to sit a little lower than the left.
Most conditions that cause kidney (renal) pain impact just one of your kidneys. Pain in the area of your right kidney could indicate a kidney problem or it could be caused by nearby organs, muscles, or other body tissue.
Below are 6 potential causes of pain in your right kidney:
|Common causes||Uncommon causes|
|urinary tract infection (UTI)||renal trauma|
|kidney stones||polycystic kidney disease (PKD)|
|renal vein thrombosis (RVT)|
Keep reading to learn about these possible causes of kidney pain, along with how these issues are typically diagnosed and treated.
Typically caused by bacteria, but sometimes caused by fungi or viruses, UTIs are a common infection.
Although they usually involve the lower urinary tract (urethra and bladder), they can also involve the upper tract (ureters and kidneys).
If your kidneys are affected, signs and symptoms may include:
- high fever
- side and upper back pain
- chills and shaking
- frequent urination
- a persistent urge to urinate
- blood or pus in urine
- nausea and vomiting
As the first line of treatment for UTIs, a doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics.
If your kidneys are infected (pyelonephritis), they might prescribe a fluoroquinolone medicine. If you have a severe UTI, your doctor may recommend hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics.
Formed in your kidneys — often from concentrated urine — kidney stones are hardened deposits of salts and minerals.
Symptoms of kidney stones can include:
- side and back pain
- a persistent need to urinate
- pain when urinating
- urinating in small amounts
- bloody or cloudy urine
- nausea and vomiting
If the kidney stone is small enough, it may pass by itself.
Your doctor may suggest a pain medication and to drink as much as 2 to 3 quarts of water a day. They may also give you an alpha blocker, a medication that relaxes your ureter to help the stone pass more easily and less painfully.
If the stone is larger or causing damage, your doctor may recommend a more invasive procedure such as:
- Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). This procedure uses sound waves to break a kidney stone into smaller, easier to pass pieces.
- Percutaneous nephrolithotomy. In this procedure, a doctor surgically removes the stone using small telescopes and instruments.
- Scope. During this procedure, a doctor uses special tools which allows them to pass through your urethra and bladder to either snare or break up the stone.
Renal trauma is a kidney injury from an outside source.
Blunt trauma is caused by an impact that doesn’t penetrate the skin, while penetrating trauma is damage caused by an object entering the body.
The symptoms of blunt trauma are hematuria and bruising in the area of the kidney. The symptoms of penetrating trauma is a wound.
Renal trauma is measured on a scale from 1 to 5, with grade 1 being a minor injury and grade 5 a kidney that has been shattered and cut off from blood supply.
Most renal trauma can be taken care of without surgery, treating possible side effects of the trauma such as discomfort and high blood pressure.
Your doctor might also suggest physical therapy and, rarely, surgery.
PKD is a genetic disorder characterized by clusters of fluid-filled cysts growing on your kidneys. A form of chronic kidney disease, PKD reduces kidney function and has the potential to cause kidney failure.
Signs and symptoms of PKD may include:
- back and side pain
- hematuria (blood in urine)
- kidney stones
- heart valve abnormalities
- high blood pressure
Since there’s no cure for PKD, your doctor will help you manage the condition by treating symptoms.
For example, if one of the symptoms is high blood pressure, they might prescribe dietary changes, along with angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) or angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
For kidney infection they might prescribe antibiotics.
In 2018, the FDA approved tolvaptan, a drug for treating autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), the form of PKD that accounts for about 90 percent of PKD cases.
This condition is quite rare. Symptoms include:
- lower back pain
- decreased urine output
Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder that’s characterized by your body excreting too much protein. If your RVT is a result of nephrotic syndrome treatment your doctor may recommend:
- blood pressure medications
- water pills, cholesterol-reducing medications
- blood thinners
- immune system-suppressing medications
Kidney cancer doesn’t typically have symptoms until later stages. Later stage symptoms include:
- persistent side and back pain
- loss of appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- intermittent fever
Surgery is the primary treatment for most kidney cancers:
- nephrectomy: the entire kidney is removed
- partial nephrectomy: the tumor is removed from the kidney
Your surgeon may opt for open surgery (a single incision) or laparoscopic surgery (a series of small incisions).
Other treatments for kidney cancer include:
- immunotherapy with drugs such as aldesleukin and nivolumab
- targeted therapy with drugs such as cabozantinib, sorafenib, everolimus, and temsirolimus
- radiation therapy with high-powered energy beams such as X-rays
If you’re experiencing consistent pain in your middle to upper back or sides, see your doctor. It could be a kidney problem that, without attention, could permanently damage your kidneys.
In some situations, such as a kidney infection, it could lead to life-threatening complications.
If you have pain in the area of your right kidney, it could be caused by a relatively common kidney problem, such as a urinary tract infection or kidney stone.
If you have persistent pain in the kidney area, or if the pain is becoming increasingly severe, or interfering with your daily activities, see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment options.