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What is Hydronephrosis?


What is Hydronephrosis?

Hydronephrosis is the swelling of a kidney due to a build-up of urine. It happens when urine cannot drain out from the kidney to the bladder from a blockage or obstruction. Hydronephrosis can occur in one or both kidneys.

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.

How is Hydronephrosis Caused?

Hydronephrosis is usually caused by another underlying illness or risk factor. Causes of hydronephrosis include, but are not limited to, the following illnesses or risk factors:

  • 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)
  • Pregnancy
  • Urinary tract infection (or other diseases that cause inflammation of the urinary tract)

What are the symptoms of hydronephrosis?

Symptoms of hydronephrosis usually depend on the cause. Often there are no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can include:

  • Sudden or intense pain in the back or side
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Weakness or malaise
  • Fever due to a urinary tract infection
  • No major change in urine output although it may be decreased

How is hydronephrosis diagnosed?

Getting a diagnosis as early as possible is extremely important. Your kidneys could be permanently damaged if your condition is left untreated for too long.

Your doctor will likely begin by getting an overall assessment of your health status and then focus on any urinary symptoms you might have. They may also 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.

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.

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