What is hydronephrosis?
Hydronephrosis is a condition that typically occurs when the kidney swells due to the failure of normal drainage of urine from the kidney to the bladder. This swelling most commonly affects only one kidney, but it can involve both kidneys. Hydronephrosis isn’t a primary disease. It’s a secondary condition that results from some other underlying disease. It’s a structural condition that’s the result of a blockage or obstruction in the urinary tract.
How common is hydronephrosis?
Hydronephrosis can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of hydronephrosis?
Normally, urine flows through the urinary tract with minimal pressure. Pressure can build up if there’s an obstruction in the urinary tract. After urine builds up for an extended period, your kidney can enlarge. Your kidney may become so engorged with urine that it starts to press on nearby organs. If it’s left untreated for too long, this pressure can cause your kidneys to lose function permanently.
The length of time you have the obstruction affects your symptoms. Mild symptoms of hydronephrosis include urinating more frequently and an increase in the urge to urinate. Other potentially severe symptoms you may experience are:
- Pain in the abdomen or flank
- Pain when urinating
- Incomplete voiding
- A fever
Interrupting the flow of urine increases your chances of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is why UTIs are one of the most common complications of hydronephrosis. Some signs of a UTI include:
- Cloudy urine
- Painful urination
- Burning with urination
- A weak urine stream
- Back pain
- Bladder pain
- A fever
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Untreated UTIs may lead to more serious conditions such as pyelonephritis, or infection of the kidney, and sepsis, which is an infection in the bloodstream or blood poisoning.
What causes hydronephrosis?
Hydronephrosis isn’t a disease. Instead, it can be due to internal and external conditions that affect the kidney and the urinary collecting system.
One of the most common of causes of hydronephrosis is acute unilateral obstructive uropathy. This is a sudden development of an obstruction in one of your ureters, which are the tubes that connect your kidneys to your bladder. The most common cause for this blockage is a kidney stone, but scarring and blood clots can also cause acute unilateral obstructive uropathy. A blocked ureter can cause urine to go back up into the kidney, which causes swelling. This backflow of urine is known as vesicoureteric reflux (VUR).
Other causes of blockage may include:
- A kink in the ureteropelvic junction, which is where the ureter meets the pelvis of the kidney
- An enlarged prostate gland in men, which can be due to bph or prostatitis
- Pregnancy, which causes a compression due to a growing fetus
- Tumors in or near the ureter
- A narrowing of the ureter from an injury or birth defect
What increases my risk for hydronephrosis?
There are many risk factors for hydronephrosis, such as:
- Kidney stone
- Congenital blockage (a defect that is present at birth)
- Blood clot
- Scarring of tissue (from injury or previous surgery)
- Tumor or cancer (examples include bladder, cervical, colon, or prostate)
- Enlarged prostate (noncancerous)
- Urinary tract infection (or other diseases that cause inflammation of the urinary tract)
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is hydronephrosis diagnosed?
Your doctor will likely begin by getting an overall assessment of your health status and then focus on any urinary symptoms you might have. Your doctor may be able to feel your enlarged kidney by gently massaging the abdomen and flank area.
Your doctor may use a catheter to drain some of the urine from your bladder. If they’re unable to release a large amount of urine this way, it could mean that your obstruction is in your bladder or your urethra. The urethra is a tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body. Your doctor may also want to perform a renal ultrasound or CT scan to get a closer look at the extent of the swelling and to possibly locate the area of the blockage. Both of these procedures let your doctor view an image of the inside of your body, but the renal ultrasound is generally considered as the gold standard for the diagnosis of hydronephrosis. It allows your doctor to get a closer look at your kidney.
How is hydronephrosis treated?
Treatment depends on the cause of the kidney swelling. Treatment may include:
- Placing a stent (tube) through the bladder and ureter to allow urine flow in the kidney and bladder
- Placing a tube into the kidney through the skin, to allow the blocked urine to drain out of the body into a drainage bag
- Antibiotics for infections
- Surgery to correct the blockage or reflux
- Removal of any stone that is causing blockage
People who have only one kidney, who have immune system disorders such as diabetes or HIV, or who have had a transplant will need treatment right away.
People who have long-term hydronephrosis may need antibiotics to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hydronephrosis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hydronephrosis:
Herbal remedies can provide relief from mild hydronephrosis caused by kidney stones. Herbs such as Phyllanthrus niruri, horsetail and Boerhaavia diffusa can treat this condition by dissolving the kidney stones. Frequently herbs with diuretic properties such as parsley or water rich fluid fruits such as watermelon are taken to increase the volume of urine output to flush out the smaller stones from the urinary tracts.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: June 19, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019
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