If This Pain Wakes You Up at Night, Your Kidneys Could Be in Trouble

Experts explain the link between this nightly pain and kidney problems.

Most of us are no strangers to occasionally waking up in the middle of the night. But even though a good night's sleep is far from guaranteed, that doesn't mean a nightly disturbance is necessarily normal. In fact, if you're waking up in the middle of the night for one reason in particular, that may be a clear sign that you need medical attention. Experts say that if a certain pain is rousing you from slumber, your kidneys could be in trouble. Read on to find out what to look out for, and for more late-night symptoms, If You Feel This at Night, You Need to Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Say.

If a pain in your big toe wakes you up at night, you could have gout.

"A male person, having gout related pain in his metatarsophalangeal joint. XXL size image."
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If you wake up with foot pain, you'll want to examine exactly where that pain is coming from. A form of arthritis called gout can cause people to wake up in the middle of the night with pain in their big toe, according to the Mayo Clinic. Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and health expert for Invigor Medical, says gout occurs when urate crystals settle in a joint space—typically the big toe. Urate crystals form when you have high levels of uric acid, a waste product, in your blood. And gout attacks are more common at night, Poston says, but the reason is "not entirely understood."

"An attack of gout can occur suddenly, often waking you up in the middle of the night with the sensation that your big toe is on fire. The affected joint is hot, swollen and so tender that even the weight of the bedsheet on it may seem intolerable," per the Mayo Clinic. And for more nightly pains you should get looked at, If This Body Part Hurts You at Night, See Your Doctor.

Gout can be an early warning sign of kidney disease.

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If you have gout, there's a significant chance it could be connected to your kidneys. According to Poston, kidney disease can cause gout, because the kidneys are the main organ responsible for filtering out uric acid. "If your kidneys are unable to filter uric acid out of the blood, it can build up and cause gout," she explains. Poston also adds that gout can be an "early warning sign" of kidney disease. And for more signs of health problems, If This Happens When You Eat or Drink, You Need Your Thyroid Checked.

But gout can also lead to kidney disease.

Middle-aged man being examined by a female doctor in a doctor's office. Patient complains to the doctor of pancreas pain.
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Gout isn't always the result of kidney disease. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that alcohol intake, eating foods rich in purine, and just being male can also increase your risk of developing gout. But while kidney disease may not be causing your gout, the condition can actually lead to kidney disease as well, according to Poston. "If you have too much uric acid in your blood, the urate crystals can damage the kidneys as blood is filtered through the kidneys," she says.

Linda Khoshaba, NMD, a physician and founder of Natural Endocrinologist Specialists, explains further that urate crystals can "inflict harm and scarring when they move through your kidneys." She warns, "This kidney damage is believed to eventually result in kidney disease and failure, especially if your gout is left untreated." And for more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

And medications to treat gout can also lead to kidney damage.

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That isn't the only kidney-related danger of gout. Khoshaba also warns that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can trigger kidney failure over time, and they are the primary pain relievers used to treat gout discomfort, she says. As the CDC explains, NSAIDs are associated with acute kidney injury in the general population and with the progression of kidney disease in those who already have chronic kidney disease. Khoshaba recommends that you consult with your doctor on what medications to take, and to also "consult a physician to determine if you can be screened for kidney failure if you have gout." And for more medications to watch out for, discover The One Pain Reliever You Should Never Take for Your Back, New Study Says.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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