Hydronephrosis occurs when urine builds up in the kidneys and cannot drain out to the bladder. This causes one or both kidneys to swell. is Not a disease itself, hydronephrosis shows another disease or condition is affecting the kidneys.
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Two urinary system problems cause hydronephrosis:
- A blockage may prevent urine from draining out of the kidneys.
- Acondition called reflux may cause urine to flow back into the kidneys from the bladder.
These problems may in turn result from:
- A blockage or defect in the urinary system that is present at birth
- Kidney stones
- A blood clot
- Scarring of the ureters, which are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder
- A tumor in the pelvic area such as the bladder, cervix, colon or prostate
- Enlarged prostate
- Enlarged uterus during pregnancy
- Persistent urinary infection in the kidneys
- Neurogenic bladder
- Injury to structures in the urinary system, such as from surgery or trauma
Symptoms of Hydronephrosis
If symptoms occur (they may not), they could include:
- Pain in the back, waist, lower abdomen or groin
- Persistent pain with urination or urinary frequency from urinary tract infections
- Increased urge to urinate or urinary incontinence
- Incomplete urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained itching
Diagnosing Swollen Kidneys
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It may involve examination of the pelvis or rectum to feel for blockages. You will likely be referred to an urologist and/or nephrologist for further diagnosis and treatment.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
- Urine tests
- Blood tests
- Bladder catheterization
Your internal structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Intravenous urogram
- Computed tomography angiography (CTA)
- MRI scan
- Voiding cystourethrogram
Treatment for Hydronephrosis
- Draining excess urine from the kidney
- Removing the blockage
- Treating conditions that cause blockage or reflux
- Treating infections in the urinary system
Some causes of hydronephrosis resolve without treatment, such as pregnancy and kidney stones.
Treatment options include:
- Antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections
- Medications to treat neurogenic bladder or to reduce excess uric acid excretion
- Catheter inserted into the bladder to drain the urine
- Nephrostomy — a tube inserted into an opening in the midsection to drain urine from the kidney
- Surgery to remove a blockage or correct a defect in the urinary system
- Surgery to remove part or all of the kidney — rare
Get Your Kidneys Checked
Don't ignore your symptoms. See a kidney specialist today.
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.