Hydronephrosis is a condition in which one or both kidneys become swollen due to the build-up of excess fluid. Each kidney consists of two parts. One part filters blood to remove excess water, salt, and waste products. The other part collects urine. When the part of the kidney that collects urine becomes blocked, the build-up causes swelling.
In addition to the kidneys, the urinary system consists of two ureters, the bladder, and the urethra. Problems with any of these structures may cause fluid to flow backward into the kidney.
If only one of the kidneys is affected, the condition is called unilateral hydronephrosis. If both kidneys are affected, it is called bilateral hydronephrosis.
Hydronephrosis may result in decreased kidney function. If not treated right away, permanent damage to the kidney or kidneys may occur, resulting in kidney failure.
Hydronephrosis can occur in people of all ages. If the condition occurs before birth, it is called fetal or antenatal hydronephrosis.
There are many causes of hydronephrosis. In adults, the conditions that most often cause hydronephrosis include:
Other possible causes of hydronephrosis include:
In women, hydronephrosis may occur as a result of:
Symptoms may include:
The aim of treatment is to restore the flow of urine from the kidney and to decrease the swelling and pressure caused by fluid build-up.
There are several approaches to treating the condition, depending on the underlying cause of the problem. You should discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider.
If the hydronephrosis is acute or sudden, a stent or soft tube (nephrostomy tube) may be inserted into the kidney to drain off excess urine.
A soft plastic tube called a ureteral stent may be placed between the kidney and bladder to drain excess fluids.
If hydronephrosis is caused by stones in the kidneys or ureters, these options are available:
Since hydronephrosis is caused by an underlying condition, prevention depends on avoiding or promptly treating the cause. For instance, the chance of developing a kidney stone may be reduced by changes in diet and staying well-hydrated. Some medications may be prescribed for patients who are prone to developing kidney stones.
Seek treatment immediately if you experience severe pain in the side or abdomen, vomiting, or a fever above 38.05°C.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
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