Hydronephrosis (Kidney Swelling): Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
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Hydronephrosis (Kidney Swelling): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Doctor examining kidney images for hydronephrosis diagnosis

The urinary tract is made up of four separate parts: kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The primary purpose of the urinary tract is to excrete waste and excess fluid out from the body.

Urine is produced when the kidneys are functioning normally to filter blood and remove excess waste and fluid. The renal pelvis collects urine, and it goes down the ureter tube and enters the bladder. Eventually, the bladder gets filled with urine which exits from the body through the urethra.

When there is too much urine, it forms a buildup when there is an obstruction. This might lead to an overflow, or it experiences a reflux which can cause swelling in the renal pelvis.

Hydronephrosis develops when the kidney swells due to an accumulation of urine. A blockage prevents the kidney from excreting urine to the bladder, which can affect either one or both kidneys.

Hydronephrosis Causes

Hydronephrosis is commonly affected by underlying illness or risk factors. The main causes of hydronephrosis include:

  • Kidney stone
  • Congenital blockage (a defect that is present during birth)
  • Blood clot
  • Scarring of tissue (from injury or previous surgery)
  • Tumour or cancer (affects areas of organs in the bladder, cervix, colon, or prostates)
  • Enlarged prostate (noncancerous)
  • Pregnancy
  • Urinary tract infection (or alternative diseases that can lead up to inflammation of the urinary tract)

Hydronephrosis Symptoms

These signs and symptoms may include:

  • A big lump in the stomach area
  • Pain that is caused by an enlarged kidney due to swelling

If these symptoms show, it is a sign that the kidneys are severely weakened. The other unaffected kidney may still function well.

Hydronephrosis Diagnosis

An ultrasound is usually used as a diagnostic tool to aid in assessing the condition of your kidneys. Sound waves are used to produce visual imagery of the kidney organs.

Your doctor will then determine a diagnosis with an X-ray, computerised tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This may include a cystoscopy, which involves a lengthy tube with a light and camera at the tip (cystoscope), which helps provide a clearer look inside the bladder and urethra.

Urine and blood examination can also show the condition of kidney function. Your doctor will be able to tell whether the cause is a kidney stone, infection, or any others explanation.

Hydronephrosis Treatment

Hydronephrosis is generally treated by determining the underlying disease or cause, for instance kidney stone or infection. Certain cases would not require any surgery and antibiotics can be sufficient. If there is a kidney stone, it can pass through on its own. For chronic cases, surgery for removal will be necessary.

If there is severe obstruction and chronic hydronephrosis, excess urine will have to be removed by involving a catheter to drain it out from the bladder. Another method requires a nephrostomy tube which drains the urine from the kidney. To avoid progression of the condition, it is best to get early detection for immediate treatment.

Kidney failure can occur in the long run if left untreated and a dialysis might be needed or a kidney transplant.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience symptoms of hydronephrosis, seek help to get the diagnosis and treatment you need for relief. Schedule a consultation with a nephrologist today at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital.

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