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Swollen Kidney – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What is a Swollen Kidney?

What will happen if the kidney is swollen? The moment the kidney does not function properly, there is a resultant effect in the different body systems. Anatomically, the kidneys are located at the rear part of the abdominal cavity. The kidneys are extremely important clearly because it has major functions that would make the body running all the whole time. They are like a machine of a vehicle – once it has a defect, it would not keep on running smoothly. In fact, every now and then, it will experience a breakdown.


The kidneys play an important function in the urinary system. They maintain the body’s homeostasis by regulating the electrolyte, the acid-base balance, and the blood pressure; and they also secrete various hormones needed by the different organ system. In addition, the kidneys serve as the filtering system of the blood circulation and get rid of waste products. That is why in the urine substances such as ammonia and urea and being excreted. The kidneys are also responsible in the reabsorption of glucose, water, and amino acids, substances that are essential to the body. Indeed, having a swollen kidney means there is an inflammation of the kidney which may indicate a serious kidney failure.

Symptoms of a Swollen Kidney

A swollen kidney is already a significant sign and symptom that something big is happening within the body. The following symptoms can be seen in patients suffering from kidney failure:

  • Burning pain on the back or the flank
  • Decreased urine output or sometimes no urine is produced
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Reduced mental alertness and confusion
  • Muscle twitching and cramping
  • Swelling feet and ankle secondary to water retention
  • Painful urination

Swollen Kidney Causes

The symptoms of a swollen kidney are non-specific in the sense that it can be attributed by other illnesses that have, in some way or another, affected the kidney. The same is true with the causes of a swollen kidney. There are various kidney diseases and conditions that would result to swelling of the kidneys.

Glomerulonephritis

Glomeruli are tiny filters in the kidneys that connect to tubules. The combination of glumeruli and tubules make up a nephron, which is the basin functioning unit of the kidney. They function to filter the blood and return to the circulation substances such as protein, sugars, and other important nontoxic materials necessary for the bodily functions. Once the glomeruli are infected with bacteria or virus, it will cause inflammation; and once it affects quite a lot of them already, it will lead to marked inflammation of the kidney, causing the kidney to swell.

Polycystic kidney disease

This condition is a genetic disorder wherein multiple cysts grow in the kidneys, destroying the normal kidney tissues. The condition would then lead to kidney inflammation thereby making it to swell.

Vesicoureteral Reflux

This reflux happens when there is an abnormal flow of urine from the bladder back to the kidney tubules because the adjoining valve between the bladder and the ureter is impaired, causing the urine to move back up.

Hydronephrosis

Because there is an obstruction between the ureter and the renal pelvis, there is a resultant distention of the kidney.

Other Causes

  • Kidney infection
  • Malignancies of the bladder, kidney, prostate, and other surrounding structures
  • Damage to the blood vessels that carries blood to and away from the kidneys

Swollen Kidney Treatment

The best way to treat a swollen kidney is to identify the cause of the swelling first and then administer treatment regimen to manage and control the complications that are brought about by the swelling. Among which are as follows:

  • Control the blood pressure by using taking medications that will lower the pressure usually ACE inhibitors or angiotensin- II receptor blocker.
  • Lower the cholesterol level by using statin medications.
  • Since the kidney is not able to do its function very well, prevention of anemia is done by using supplements of the hormone erythropoietin to induce red blood cell production.
  • Since there is decreased urination, fluid retention is very possible and in more advanced cases, fluid is retained in the lower extremities. Diuretics are important medications to release the excess water from the body.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements are prescribed to prevent bone weakening.

Decrease the intake of protein because protein-rich diet has waste products that would definitely pass through the kidneys for cleansing. So in order not to overwork the kidneys, low-protein diet is essential.

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