How to spot drug-induced liver and kidney toxicity

Credit: Unsplash+

Medications are designed to improve our health, but sometimes they can have unintended side effects.

One of the serious complications that can arise from medication use is drug-induced toxicity, particularly affecting the liver and kidneys.

These organs play crucial roles in filtering and eliminating substances from the body, including medications. When they are overwhelmed or damaged by drugs, it can lead to significant health issues.

Understanding drug-induced liver and kidney toxicity is important for both patients and healthcare providers to manage and prevent potential risks.

Liver Toxicity

The liver helps process and break down substances in the body, including medications. Drug-induced liver injury is a risk with many types of drugs, whether they are prescription medications, over-the-counter treatments, or even herbal supplements.

The liver’s reaction to a drug can range from mild enzyme elevations, which may be temporary, to severe liver damage, liver failure, and even death.

Some medications known for their potential to cause liver damage include acetaminophen (a common pain reliever), certain antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and anti-seizure medications.

Acetaminophen-related liver damage is one of the most common forms of drug-induced liver injury in the Western world, often occurring when the drug is taken in excessive amounts or when combined with alcohol.

Symptoms of drug-induced liver injury may include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

However, in many cases, people experience no symptoms until substantial damage has occurred, which complicates diagnosis and treatment.

Kidney Toxicity

The kidneys maintain overall fluid and electrolyte balance, filter blood, and remove waste products. Drug-induced kidney toxicity, also known as nephrotoxicity, can occur due to various mechanisms such as direct toxin damage to kidney cells, reduced blood flow to the kidneys, or blockage affecting the filtration process of the kidneys.

Drugs that commonly cause kidney damage include NSAIDs, certain antibiotics like aminoglycosides, and contrast dyes used in imaging procedures.

Symptoms of kidney toxicity may include reduced amount of urine, swelling in legs and ankles due to fluid retention, shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion, and in severe cases, acute kidney failure.

Preventing and Managing Toxicity

The key to managing drug-induced liver and kidney toxicity is prevention and early detection. Here are some strategies:

  1. Medication Review: Regularly reviewing all medications with a healthcare provider, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements, can help prevent interactions and toxicity.
  2. Monitoring: For many high-risk medications, regular monitoring of liver and kidney function through blood tests can help catch early signs of damage. This may involve checking levels of certain liver enzymes or markers of kidney function like creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN).
  3. Dosage Management: Adjusting the dose of medications that are known to be potentially toxic to the liver or kidneys can minimize the risk. This is particularly important for people who already have existing liver or kidney disease.
  4. Awareness of Symptoms: Being aware of the signs and symptoms of liver and kidney damage and reporting them immediately to a healthcare provider can lead to quicker intervention and treatment.

In conclusion, while medications are often necessary and life-saving, they carry the risk of potential liver and kidney toxicity.

By understanding these risks and how to manage them, patients and healthcare providers can work together to ensure that treatments improve health without causing additional harm.

As research advances, the development of safer drugs and more precise monitoring techniques will likely reduce these risks further.

If you care about liver health, please read studies about a diet that can treat fatty liver disease and obesity, and coffee drinkers may halve their risk of liver cancer.

For more information about liver health, please see recent studies that anti-inflammatory diet could help prevent fatty liver disease, and results showing vitamin D could help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.