Hydronephrosis is a condition in which one or both kidneys swell up. This happens due to the build-up of urine in the kidneys. The build-up happens because of some blockage or obstruction from the kidney to the urinary bladder. It can happen during any stage of a person's life. When this condition happens in one kidney, it is called Unilateral Hydronephrosis, and though when it happens in both the kidneys, it is called Bilateral Hydronephrosis. One should get this condition treated as soon as possible because it affects the function of the kidneys, and if it is not treated on time, it may result in kidney failure.

Symptoms of Hydronephrosis

Hydronephrosis doesn't need to cause any symptoms in a patient's body, but when it does, it looks something like this:

  • Sudden pain on the side or back. It may be intense and can go down to the lower abdomen and groin area
  • Nausea followed by vomiting
  • UTIs that may lead to fever
  • Weakness in the body
  • Pain during urination and urgent and frequent need to urinate
  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Feeling of incomplete urination

Although a patient may not find these symptoms to be serious once they start to appear, they should always pay a visit to a doctor to confirm if they have any health issues or not.

Causes of Hydronephrosis

Hydronephrosis is caused due to some underlying health condition. Some of the reasons for hydronephrosis to occur include:

Kidney stones: the presence of stones in kidneys or the urinary tract.

Blood clots: blood clots in the kidney or ureter act as blockages in urine flow.

Congenital blockage: a blockage present in a person right from their birth.

Prostate enlargement: an increase of the size of the prostate glands in men.

Nerve or muscle problems: these problems may be caused due to some other diseases.

Uterine prolapse: the sagging, the descending, or slipping out of the uterine in women.

Cancer: tumours or cancer in the urinary bladder, uterus, prostate gland, or other organs near the urinary tract or are a part of it.

These health conditions are not the only causes of hydronephrosis. Other issues like urine retention and vesicoureteral reflux may also lead to hydronephrosis.


After you visit a physician for the symptoms mentioned above, you may be referred to a Urologist to diagnose your problem. The doctor will advise you to run some tests or imaging procedures to correctly diagnose the issue. The tests may be:

Physical examination: at first, when you will visit the urologist and tell him about your problems, he might inspect the area near your kidneys, pelvic region, and bladder to look for any swelling. Men may have to go through a rectal exam to get their prostate checked, and women may have to go through a pelvic exam to check for problems related to their uterus or ovaries.

Blood tests: the doctor may advise you to get your CBC done, along with Kidney Function Tests (KFT).

Urine tests: a urine sample will be taken to check for any stones or infections that might be present.

Imaging procedures: to confirm the presence or absence of any obstruction or tumour, the doctor may advise you to get an ultrasound done, or maybe even x-rays and CT scans.

Cystoscopy: in this procedure, a long tube with light and camera at its end might be used to have a clearer picture of the bladder and urethra.


The treatment for hydronephrosis depends on the underlying problem or health issue causing it. Mild or moderate hydronephrosis is treated by giving antibiotics to the patients to lower the risk of UTIs. A kidney stone often passes through on its own if it is small in size, and hence the doctor asks the patient to wait and watch. Though in severe cases of hydronephrosis, excess urine present in the kidneys may be removed using a catheter. Even surgery is opted by the doctors in some patients to remove the blockage that may be making it difficult for the urine to pass through or even to correct the reflux that may be causing the urine to flow in the wrong direction.

Please seek treatment or advice from a doctor if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms.