Medicines, also called drugs, prevent and treat existing and underlying diseases. Since they improve health conditions, we may easily overlook their side effects, especially when we think these health risks don’t apply to us.
One of the health risks of medications is kidney damage. In fact, 20% of all cute kidney failure cases are caused by drug use. Even worse, among adults, this percentage can increase further up to 66% due to their existing diseases that require maintenance drugs. However, not all drugs compromise kidney function.
Only those that are misused and overused can lead to kidney damage or, worse, failure. Specifically, we’ve listed certain medications that aren’t good for our kidney health when taken for a long time.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically used to treat pain (e.g., headaches), colds, and fever. However, evidence has shown that they can increase the risk of developing kidney injury and, worse, progressive kidney damage.
Specifically, the risk occurs when taking NSAIDs with low blood pressure or dehydration. Many clinical studies have shown that fluid retention is among the common NSAID-related kidney complications.
The kidneys have natural chemicals called prostaglandins (PGs). These hormones dilate our blood vessels and allow oxygen to reach the organs to keep them alive and healthy. However, NSAIDs block them, causing fluid retention that may reduce blood flow to the kidneys. When this happens, kidney function could fail.
Long-term use of NSAIDs, such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, can also increase the likelihood of developing kidney failure. It’s one of the main causes of kidney damage in the United States.
Certain HIV Drugs
Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate, commonly known as Tenofovir DF (TDF), treats human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It’s one of the high-tier drugs in terms of formulary that can be covered by insurance, but still, consider asking about them when researching what is a POS medical plan or other health insurance.
However, research has shown that TDF has a small yet definite adverse impact on kidney function. Research has shown that it can present as acute kidney injury (AKI), chronic kidney disease (CKD), and full or partial Fanconi’s syndrome, a rare kidney tubule function disorder.
AKI caused by TDF is usually caused by taking it alone or in combination with other drugs. For example, some doctors prescribe Stribild (a combination of TDF and elvitegravir, cobicistat, and emtricitabine) or Truvada (a combination of TDF and emtricitabine).
The boosting agents in TDF can also raise levels of it in the kidneys, aggravating the harmful effects of the drug. Thankfully, medical researchers have reformulated it into Tenofovir Alafenamide (TAF), which is found to be less likely to cause kidney dysfunction.
Diuretics help decrease fluid buildup in our body, hence called “water pills.” For example, they treat swelling and high blood pressure by eliminating extra fluid flowing through the veins and arteries. However, for the same reason, they can lead to fluid retention, which, as mentioned, may harm our kidneys.
Antibiotics are taken to fight bacterial infections in humans and animals. They kill bacteria or other infection-causing microorganisms, making it hard for them to grow and multiply. However, their long-term use is known to be harmful to the kidneys.
Take the penicillin antibiotic amoxicillin, for example. It may cause urine crystallization, which can block urine flow. Even worse, it isn’t easy to break down. When left untreated, these crystals may result in kidney damage and could progress to kidney failure.
Laxatives can help relieve and treat constipation. However, like amoxicillin, they can cause crystallization that may cause kidney damage and failure. Those with oral sodium phosphate (OSP), in particular, have been found to cause crystals in the kidneys, especially when taken for a long time.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are used to reduce lower stomach acid. Specifically, they can relieve heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers. However, evidence has shown that prolonged use of these drugs may trigger acute interstitial nephritis, linked to AKI, and increase the risk of developing CKD.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors treat heart, blood vessel, and kidney problems. They’re also taken to reduce the risks of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
Since they can help reduce systemic blood pressure, ACE inhibitors can also lead to kidney protection and slow down kidney damage. Although they’re kidney-friendly, they work like diuretics, so long-term use of them can again result in fluid retention.
The risk of developing kidney injury or failure can be higher if ACE inhibitors are taken while dehydrated or with other nephrotoxic medications (drugs damaging or destructive to the kidneys).
Many medicines may harm the kidneys if taken while dehydrated and taken for a long time. Always take medicines with enough water and a healthcare provider’s prescription to prevent kidney damage and failure. If they’re over-the-counter drugs, immediately seek medical supervision to avoid unintentional drug misuse.