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Kidney Cyst - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Jan 22, 2020   -  4 min read



Did you know a cyst or a fluid-filled sac can grow in your kidneys also? Learn about how it can affect your kidneys and the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney cysts.

Kidney Cyst - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What Is a Kidney Cyst?

A fluid-filled round pouch that grows inside a kidney is called a kidney cyst. Kidneys are the bean-shaped organs that produce urine by clearing out waste from the bloodstream. Single or multiple cysts can be present on a single kidney or both kidneys. Kidney cysts do not usually produce any symptoms and are harmless. As they do not produce any signs or symptoms, they are mostly diagnosed accidentally during an abdominal scan for some other condition. Sometimes, kidney cysts are associated with severe conditions, which can disrupt kidney function.


The two types of kidney cysts are:

1) Simple kidney cysts - These are usually noncancerous, and rarely cause any complications. The cause is still not clear though. Often, a single cyst is seen on the surface of the affected kidney. These cysts do not cause any symptoms and do not require treatment.

2) Polycystic kidney disease - Polycystic kidney disease, otherwise called PKD, is a condition where multiple cysts form on the kidneys. This type of cyst damages the kidney function and structure as they grow larger.

What Causes a Kidney Cyst?

The exact cause of a simple kidney cyst is not known. The kidney has several tiny tubules, which collect urine. Scientists believe the following to be the possible causes of a kidney cyst:

  1. When these tubules get blocked, swell up, or get filled with push, a cyst might start.

  2. When the weakened areas of the tubules form pouches (diverticula), which get filled with fluid and can result in a cyst.

Risk Factors:

Some of the factors that increase the risk of kidney cysts are:

What Are the Symptoms of a Kidney Cyst?

The majority of the cysts are very small, which cannot be seen with the naked eye, and you need a microscope to see them. But, some cysts can grow big and can compress the nearby organs and produce symptoms. Symptoms are also seen when the cyst becomes infected. Some of the symptoms of a simple kidney cyst, when it grows too big or gets infected, are:

The symptoms of polycystic kidney disease are:

How Is a Kidney Cyst Diagnosed?

Asymptomatic cases of kidney cysts that are the cysts that cause no signs or symptoms or do not interfere with the kidney function do not usually need treatment. If you are suffering from any symptoms, the doctor will perform the following tests and procedures to diagnose kidney cysts and to rule out other conditions that result in similar symptoms:

  1. Ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or CT (computerized tomography) scan - These imaging tests are done to determine if the growth on the kidney is a cyst or a tumor.

  2. Kidney function tests - To check if the growth on your kidney is impairing the functioning of your kidneys.

  3. Urinalysis - The content of the urine is tested.

How Is a Kidney Cyst Treated?

Asymptomatic cases of kidney cysts, that are the cysts that cause no signs or symptoms or do not interfere with the kidney function, do not usually need treatment. For such cysts, the doctor will suggest you get periodic imaging tests (ultrasound) to check if the kidney cyst is growing. The doctor will recommend treatment if the kidney cyst increases in size or starts producing symptoms. Sometimes, a simple kidney cyst resolves on its own. The treatment for symptomatic kidney cysts include:

  1. Sclerotherapy - The cyst is punctured and drained and then filled with alcohol. The doctor will first inject an anesthetic solution, and then insert a long and thin needle into the cyst wall through the skin with the help of an ultrasound. Then the needle is used to draw out the fluid. The cyst is refilled with alcohol to prevent recurrence.

  2. Surgery - If the cyst is big and affecting kidney function, then the cyst needs to be surgically removed. The cyst is first drained and then removed. The surgeon makes several small cuts in the skin and inserts specialized instruments through the incisions. The instruments have a camera at its end, which helps the surgeon visualize and guide the instruments to drain the fluid that is filled in the cyst. The pouch surrounding the cyst is then burned or cut off.

What Are the Possible Complications of a Kidney Cyst?

In rare cases, simple kidney cysts can result in the following possible complications:

  1. The cyst can rupture and cause pain.

  2. The cyst can get infected.

  3. The kidneys get swollen due to urine obstruction.

  4. High blood pressure.

  5. Blood in the urine.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, then consult a doctor immediately. When treated promptly, most complications are not fatal. But if left untreated, the symptoms worsen and can also be fatal.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

It is an inherited condition that results in clusters of cysts within the kidneys. It makes the kidneys to enlarge and loss of kidney function over time. These cysts can vary in size and shape and can even grow very large. The cyst can also grow in the liver or other body organs. PKD can result in high blood pressure and kidney failure. The incidence of complications can be reduced with the help of lifestyle changes and treatments. Most complications are preventable and depend on the severity of the condition.

In general, a simple kidney cyst is usually harmless and does not cause any complications. In case the cyst grows, surgery or sclerotherapy can help prevent permanent kidney damage. For more information on kidney cysts, consult a nephrologist online now!


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Last reviewed at:
22 Jan 2020  -  4 min read


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