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World Kidney Day: Doctors warn against overuse of OTC medicines

IANS Mar 14, 2024

Even as easily accessible over-the-counter (OTC) medications help manage pain and reduce inflammation, their indiscriminate use can pose significant risks, especially to the kidneys, said experts on 13 March, ahead of World Kidney Day.

World Kidney Day is observed annually on March 14 to raise awareness about the various risks posed to the organ that filters the blood and excretes waste products out of the body.

Kidney disease is the eighth leading cause of death in India.

Overuse of OTC painkillers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and antibiotics are some of the major reasons behind this, along with hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, warned nephrologists.

Various studies have shown that painkillers can cause kidney damage by reducing blood flow to the kidneys, causing fluid retention, and interfering with the kidney's ability to regulate electrolytes.

"NSAIDs work by inhibiting certain enzymes in the body that help regulate blood flow to the kidneys. Prolonged use can disrupt this balance, leading to decreased kidney function and, in severe cases, acute kidney injury,” said Dr Deepak Shankar Ray, Senior Consultant of Nephrology at NH-RN Tagore Hospital, Kolkata.

Due to a lack of indicators, kidney diseases are often referred to as the "quiet disease".

Also, in many cases, people ignore early warning signs, while detecting kidney disease early can mean the difference between life and death.

Dr Rajesh Aggarwal, Chief and Senior Consultant of nephrology, at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute said that patients receiving prolonged courses of antibiotics or those with pre-existing kidney impairment are at increased risk of antibiotic-induced kidney damage.

"Inappropriate antibiotic use, such as self-medication or failure to complete the prescribed course, can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, necessitating more potent antibiotics with potentially greater nephrotoxicity," he warned.

The experts urged patients to safeguard their kidney health by adhering to prescribed medication regimens, avoiding self-medication, and consulting doctors if they experience any concerning symptoms, such as changes in urinary habits or swelling.

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