Hydronephrosis (swollen kidney) causes, symptoms and treatment

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Kidney Health | Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 01:45 PM

Hydronephrosis (swollen kidney) causes, symptoms and treatmentHydronephrosis (swollen kidney) is a result of urine build-up within one or both kidneys, making them swell and enlarged. Anyone can become affected by hydronephrosis even unborn babies as it can be seen during ultrasounds while the mother is pregnant.

Generally, hydronephrosis does not contribute to long-term problems as long as it is treated and diagnosed early on. In some cases, hydronephrosis can increase a person’s risk of developing urinary tract infections and, if left untreated, can cause scarring of the kidney, which could ultimately lead to kidney failure.

Hydronephrosis causes

The primary cause of hydronephrosis is a build-up of urine in one or both kidneys. Other causes of hydronephrosis include:

  • Blockage of urine flow from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Backflow of urine from the bladder to the kidneys
  • Blockage of flow of urine from the bladder to be expelled
  • Kidney stones
  • Pregnancy
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Narrowing of ureters either due to injury or surgery
  • Some types of cancer, such as kidney, bladder, prostate, or ovarian cancer

Hydronephrosis symptoms

Hydronephrosis can be symptomless, but once symptoms do occur, they can entail the following:

  • Pain in the back or side that is sudden, severe, starts off dull, and worsens when consuming liquids
  • Symptoms similar to a UTI-like fever
  • Overall feeling of illness
  • Blood in urine
  • Urinating less or having a weak stream
  • In some cases, noticeably swollen kidneys

Hydronephrosis treatment

Hydronephrosis (swollen kidney) causes, symptoms and treatmentTreatment for hydronephrosis is based on the underlying cause of the condition. Typically, pregnant women and babies do not require treatment.

Hydronephrosis treatment in adults first includes draining of the urine, which is built up in the kidneys. A catheter is inserted into the bladder and kidneys in order to relieve added pressure.

Only until the excess urine has been expelled can treatment of the underlying cause begin. Some examples of treatment options for hydronephrosis include:

  • Removing kidney stones
  • Treating an enlarged prostate with surgery or medications
  • Surgically adding stents to reduce narrowing of the ureters
  • Treating cancer

Your doctor will be able to choose the appropriate form of treatment based on your needs and the underlying cause of your swollen kidneys.


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