Round, fluid-filled pouches that sometimes form in one or both kidneys are referred to as kidney cysts.
It is possible for cysts to be related to a serious disorder that may affect kidney functions. However, kidney cysts are often non-cancerous “simple cysts" that don’t need to be treated unless symptoms develop.
Larger cysts may require medical attention, especially if there’s a need to rule out other possible sources of discomfort that may be more serious than kidney cysts.
Kidney cysts that are small or “simple" may not produce any symptoms. Larger cysts may contribute to upper abdominal pain and dull pain that’s felt in the back area or on the sides of the body. Some patients with kidney cysts may also get a fever.
What Causes Kidney Cysts?
According to one theory about kidney cysts, they may develop in weak spots within the surface of a kidney. Some kidney cysts may also be related to an inherited disease called polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a condition that can lead to frequent kidney infections, urine in blood (hematuria), and abdominal pain.
Diagnosing Kidney Cysts
If symptoms are experienced, the process of making a positive diagnosis often involves image tests and kidney function tests. A CT scan or MRI scan may be done to determine if a cyst is actually a kidney cyst or a tumor that may be related to kidney cancer. A blood test may also be taken to determine if a kidney cyst is affecting a kidney’s ability to function.
Possible Treatments for Kidney Cysts
If a kidney cyst isn’t producing serious symptoms or interfering with kidney functions, the only recommendation may be periodic testing (e.g., blood tests, ultrasound scans). In some instances, a simple kidney cyst will just go away. However, it’s also possible for symptoms to become more noticeable over time if the cyst becomes larger. If treatment for a kidney cyst is necessary, one option is to puncture and drain the cyst. After the cyst is drained, an alcohol solution is injected to keep the cyst from forming again in the same area.
With some kidney cysts, surgery is necessary. The type of procedure commonly performed is usually done with minimally invasive surgical techniques. This means small incisions are made and special instruments and a scope with a lens attached to it are used. The images produced by the camera are displayed on a monitor to provide visual guidance for the surgeon. The cyst is then drained. The walls of the cyst are also burned away or cut. This is done to prevent the cyst from coming back or forming again.
The risk of developing kidney cysts increases with age, although it’s possible to develop them at any age. They tend to be more common in men. Larger, untreated cysts may lead to issues with urine obstructions if the flow of urine is affected. Medical attention is also necessary if sudden back or side pain occurs since this is usually a sign that a cyst has burst. Kidney cysts may also trigger noticeable and problematic symptoms if they become infected.