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Hydronephrosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

What Is Hydronephrosis?

Hydronephrosis is a secondary condition that is related to the swelling of kidneys. Blockage of the urine flow from the kidney to the bladder causes swelling in the kidneys. The inflammation or swelling due to the non-passage of urine collected in the kidney is known as hydronephrosis. People belonging to any age group can develop this condition.

The causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hydronephrosis are discussed below.


What Causes This Condition?

Hydronephrosis is not a primary disease. There is always an underlying cause for this condition to appear. The causes include internal and external conditions affecting the kidney. Urine goes from the kidney to the bladder and is then drained out of the body. However, at times, the passage of urine might be blocked and the build-up of urine inside the kidney can cause hydronephrosis.

Some of the causes of hydronephrosis include partial blockage in the urinary tract and vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). Vesicoureteral reflux happens when the urine flow is wrong due to which the urine is not emptied properly from the kidney causing the kidney to swell. Other causes of hydronephrosis include kidney stones and tumours. Usually, one kidney is affected but at times both kidneys might be involved. In the case of babies, such an obstruction is generally created when a part of the urinary system is developed incorrectly prior to birth.


Symptoms Of Hydronephrosis

This condition in the body may not appear as a symptom at times. The symptoms are majorly based on the severity of the condition and also the underlying cause. However, the most common symptoms related to hydronephrosis are the pain in the abdomen or on the sides or back pain, pain while passing urine, blood in urine, nausea, vomiting and fever. The frequent urge to urinate and incomplete urination might also appear as symptoms of this condition. While these are mostly the symptoms seen in adults suffering from this condition, the symptoms in babies might vary or show no symptoms at all. Few symptoms could be fever, issues in feeding, irritation, blood in urine, pain in the abdomen or side, lack of energy etc.

Who Is More Prone To This Condition?

People with the below ailments or conditions are prone to hydronephrosis.

A person with a kidney stone is prone to hydronephrosis. In fact, kidney stones are one of the most common conditions causing hydronephrosis. People with an enlarged prostate can be prone to hydronephrosis. The causes might also be cancer or tumour, urinary tract infection, pregnancy, blood clot etc.

Risk Factors Of Hydronephrosis

The risk factor associated with hydronephrosis is that it might lead to the permanent failure of kidneys if not treated for a long time.


The condition of obstruction in the kidney which leads to hydronephrosis is often classified as acute or chronic, partial or complete, unilateral or bilateral. For diagnosis of hydronephrosis, a blood test, urine test, a CT scan and a renal ultrasound might be required. Depending on the conditions, further tests are prescribed. It is important that the diagnosis is done as early as possible to avoid permanent and severe damage to the kidneys.


The treatment of hydronephrosis again depends on the underlying cause of this condition and also the severity. The treatment involves curing the underlying cause - removing the pressure build-up on the kidneys, eliminating the urine build-up thereby preventing damage to the kidneys. It aims at reducing the pain and preventing any infections in the urinary tract. There is a procedure called catheterisation in which the urine from their kidneys is drained out.

If the condition is mild then it might be treated with medication and for severe hydronephrosis, surgery might be required. However, it all depends on the level and underlying cause of the condition.

Read more about: disorder kidney urine health
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