Originally published: 14.APR.2021
Last updated: 4.DEC.2023

Over-the-counter pain medication, laxatives, or antibiotics; no matter the medication, it all passes through your kidneys. And as your kidney’s primary function is to remove waste products from your body, it’s important to be smart when it comes to what you put into your body - this includes your medication.

According to The National Kidney Foundation, thousands of the U.S. population have damaged their kidneys by taking medication in the wrong way or for a prolonged period of time. This is why following medical advice and only taking medication when necessary is crucial. Some of the medications that can potentially cause damage to the kidneys include:

  • Laxatives
  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antibiotics

Related article: What is Normal Kidney Function and Should You Get it Checked?

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What Medications Can Damage Your Kidneys?

No matter what medication you take - it’s bound to make its way through your kidneys. If you’re taking it in excessive amounts or in the wrong way, it can lead to serious complications for your kidneys [1]. Though you can survive with one kidney - it’s important to keep both in good shape! Here’s what to know about just some of the medications that can cause kidney damage.


The FDA has reported that there is a selection of laxatives connected to a sudden loss of kidney function and blood mineral disturbances - this particularly concerns those already living with kidney disease though it can also affect others [2]. They have also warned that taking more than the recommended amount can cause rare but serious harm to the kidneys and heart. If you need to take laxatives, make sure to discuss the options with your doctor.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Anti-inflammatory drugs are medicines that are commonly used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation or help with a fever. Well-known over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are all common examples. If these are taken in high quantities, they can reduce the blood flow to the kidneys [3]. When it comes to pain medication, it’s important to talk to your doctor before you begin taking them regularly.


Like all medications on this list, if antibiotics aren’t taken with care and in the correct way, they can cause serious harm to your kidneys. While some antibiotics contain substances that can damage certain kidney cells and/or disrupt your urine flow, others might cause a reaction that can cause kidney damage; this is more common in those who are on a high dosage or are taking antibiotics for a long period of time [4]. Remember to only take antibiotics prescribed to you by your doctor.

What Would Indicate Damage to the Kidneys?

It’s estimated that over 37 million adults in the U.S. are living with kidney disease, and the majority don’t even realize it. The reason for this is simple; those living with kidney disease often don’t experience any symptoms until the very late stages and other earlier signs can often go unnoticed.

Although the most reliable way to know more about your kidney health is with a kidney function test, there are some signs to keep an eye out for, these include:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Cramping muscles

If you are at an increased risk of kidney disease as a result of conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, you smoke or you have a family history of kidney disease; it’s important to keep a close eye on your kidney health and regularly get tested.

How Can I Check my Kidney Function?

If you’re concerned about your kidney health and feel you need immediate attention - visit your doctor as soon as possible.

If you are curious about your kidney health however, the LetsGetChecked kidney function test will allow you to monitor your kidney function and performance with online results available within a week. This test will indicate how your kidneys are performing by measuring levels of urea, creatinine, and eGFR. High levels of urea, creatinine and a low eGFR can indicate acute or chronic kidney disease.

You should consider taking a test if:

  • You suffer from high blood pressure
  • You suffer from diabetes
  • You have suffered an acute injury
  • You have persistent urinary tract infections
  • You have a kidney disease or a family history of one
  • You have kidney stones or a family history of them
  • You have a high protein diet
  • You have been taking performance enhancing drugs

See also: How do you Check Your Kidney Function?

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Check-in on your kidney health with our Kidney Function testing option.


  1. National Kidney Function. Which drugs are harmful to your kidneys? Online: Kidney.org
  2. U.S Food & Drug Administration. Use certain laxatives with caution. Online: Fda.gov, 2014
  3. National Kidney Function. Which drugs are harmful to your kidneys? Online: Kidney.org
  4. National Kidney Function. Which drugs are harmful to your kidneys? Online: Kidney.org