Hydronephrosis is a dilation of the kidney with urine, caused by backward pressure on the kidney due to an obstructed urine flow. It can prove to be a source of excruciating pain, usually in the area between the hip and the ribs. In the case of the condition appearing more gradually, patients may experience mild symptoms, if any at all.
The pressure of urine flowing out of the kidney is quite low. If it becomes obstructed it tends to back up to the point when it reaches the renal pelvis. This greatly increases the pressure, which in turn causes damage to the kidney and may result in the complete loss of its function. The risk of infections also rises and kidney stones are even more likely to appear. All this can result in total kidney failure.
Hydronephrosis is commonly caused by a number of conditions. Various structural abnormalities can obstruct the urine flow in multiple ways. Kidney stones or blood clots in the renal pelvis can also cause this kind of obstruction. Bands of fibrous tissue, a tumor or an abnormal vein and artery growth may be responsible for a compression of the ureter, resulting in identical problems.
During pregnancy, uterus enlargement may cause ureters to compress, inducing hydronephrosis in both kidneys. This can be further aggravated by hormonal changes. However, this condition should end with the completion of pregnancy itself. Only rarely does the ailment mildly continue afterward.
Symptoms are very dependent on various causes. If the obstruction appeared suddenly, it will often present with renal colic production. this should become apparent through excruciating pains in the respective flank. A slower progression may present no recognizable symptoms. Vague intestinal symptoms can also become apparent. These would include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains.
Early diagnosis of the condition is important so as to avoid permanent kidney damage, so any of the symptoms mentioned should be reported right away.
Permanent damage is expected only in cases where both kidneys are obstructed for a considerable amount of time (two weeks or more).
Treatment efforts are mostly directed at removing the cause of obstruction. These can include drugs, lithotripsy or endoscopic surgery, depending on the said cause. One of the last resorts is to drain the urinary tract. This, however, should be used only if there is no way to swiftly relieve the obstruction, or if the kidney(s) are in imminent danger. An infection or severe pains are good examples of those. Complications may include tube displacement, infections or discomfort.