Common medications, including antibiotics, blood pressure drugs, and supplements, can cause significant damage to the kidneys if taken too often or at high doses. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 20% of kidney damage caused by medications applies to both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Some people, including those over 60 years of age or living with chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, are at higher risk of kidney damage from these medications.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD) if taken long-term. Antibiotics, such as penicillin and cephalosporins, can cause acute kidney issues if used incorrectly. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), used to reduce stomach acid, have a low overall risk for kidney injury but long-term use and sustained higher doses can increase the chance of kidney disease.
Blood pressure medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), are effective at controlling blood pressure but can be harmful to the kidneys if taken with other medications. Supplements can also affect kidney function, and some herbal supplements have been linked to chronic kidney injury. Medications used to treat mental health conditions, such as Prozac and lithium, can also cause kidney problems.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) develops gradually over time and can be the result of certain medications, including those for blood pressure and mental health. Symptoms of CKD include swelling of the lower extremities, fatigue, and nausea. Acute kidney injury (AKI), also called acute renal failure, is when kidney failure or damage occurs suddenly and is common in people who are in the hospital or intensive care units.
To avoid kidney damage from medication, it is important to keep an updated list of medications and supplements, ask your doctor how each medication might interfere with your kidneys, stay hydrated, eat a reduced salt diet, and exercise daily to control blood pressure. If kidney damage is due to medication, discontinuing the medication, replacing fluids, and treating kidney inflammation are ways to treat it, but this should always be done under the direction of a physician.