Pain in end-stage renal disease: a frequent and neglected clinical problem

Clin Nephrol. 2013 Jan;79 Suppl 1:S2-11.


Pain is a major health problem in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) affecting half of the dialysis patients; most of them experience a moderate to severe degree of pain. Nevertheless, the impact of chronic pain and its consequences are often underestimated. Sources of pain related to the uremic environment are renal bone disease (osteitis fibrosa cystica, amyloidosis, osteomalacia), osteoarthritis, calcific uremic arteriolopathy and peripheral neuropathy. Moreover, comorbid conditions such as ischemic peripheral artery disease, diabetic neuropathy, osteopenia/ osteoporosis (due to long-standing hypertension, diabetes, or old age) result in various kinds of pain. Also the primary kidney disease (e.g. autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD)) as well as performance of hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis are important causes of pain. Potential consequences of persistent pain are disturbed sleep, weakened memory/attention, altered mood (anxiety and depressive disorder), impotence, poorer physical state, less social activities and consideration of withdrawal from dialysis. Consequently the health-related-quality of life (HRQOL) is diminished, associated with a higher morbidity and mortality. In the therapy of pain the WHO three-step analgesic ladder adapted for ESRD, was shown to be effective in dialysis patients. Of fundamental importance are various forms of non-pharmacological strategies including electrotherapy. Recently the so-called high tone external muscle stimulation (HTEMS) was very effective in the management of neuropathic pain in ESRD patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality
  • Neuralgia / etiology
  • Neuralgia / mortality
  • Neuralgia / therapy
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / mortality
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / therapy*