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Kidney Swelling (Hydronephrosis)

  • What is Kidney Swelling (Hydronephrosis)?

    Hydronephrosis is the swelling of the kidney caused by the build up of urine in the kidney. It is a common abnormality of the urinary tract and is caused by the blockage of the urine flow in the ureter (the tube that removes urine from the kidney into the bladder). Hydronephrosis is mainly a congenital condition, ie. babies are born with it.

  • The causes of hydronephrosis affecting one kidney include:

    • Partial blockage at the upper end of the ureter (at the junction between the kidney and the urine drain pipe)

    Other causes that might lead to hydronephrosis include:

    • Backflow of urine into the kidneys
    • Blockage of the lower end of the ureter
  • The symptoms of untreated hydronephrosis include:

    • A large lump in the stomach
    • Pain caused by an swollen kidney

    If the condition is found after these symptoms occur, most of the kidney function would be already damaged, although the other unaffected kidney can still work normally.

  • Hydronephrosis in babies is examined using kidney ultrasounds and kidney function scans. The results will allow the doctor to find the location of the blockage and therefore suggest the best treatment option for the baby:

    • No action may be needed, and in some cases the baby’s kidney can get better with time
    • Surgery may be needed if the upper end of the ureter is partially blocked to relieve the pressure on the kidney
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