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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!

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Kidney Cyst a Serious Condition?

Most simple kidney cysts are rarely harmful and do not cause any problems. If a cyst grows continuously, sclerotherapy or surgery can remove it. This limits the incidence of long-term complications. However, polycystic kidney disease can be serious. Without treatment, polycystic kidney disease can lead to complications, such as high blood pressure and even kidney failure.


How Can I Treat a Kidney Cyst?

When your cyst is diagnosed to be a simple cyst, you usually do not have to worry. It does not require any medical treatment unless it causes any symptoms. But symptomatic cysts require treatment. The currently available treatment modalities for kidney cyst include:
- Painkillers for pain.
- Antibiotics to avoid the incidence of infection.
- Puncturing and drainage of the cyst followed by filling it with alcohol.
- Surgical removal of the cyst. This is indicated when the patient has a large or symptomatic cyst.


Does a Cyst on Your Kidney Cause Pain?

In situations where simple kidney cysts grow large, they can cause a pain that is characterized to be dull in nature, which is most commonly felt at the person's back, side, or upper abdomen. These cysts can sometimes get infected, which causes symptoms like pain, fever, and tenderness. They can also burst and cause pain.


What Are the Foods to Be Avoided With Kidney Cysts?

The following foods should be avoided by a person who is diagnosed to have kidney cysts:
- Dark-colored soda.
- Avocados.
- Canned foods.
- Whole wheat bread.
- Brown rice.
- Bananas.
- Dairy products.
- Oranges and orange juice.


What Complications Can Arise if a Cyst Is Left Untreated?

In situations where kidney cysts are left untreated, benign cysts can lead to serious complications. The commonly seen complication is an infection where the kidney cyst fills with bacteria, pus, and later becomes an abscess. If the abscess bursts out inside the body cavity itself, there is a risk of blood poisoning, which is termed as septicemia.


What Does a Cyst on the Kidney Suggest?

Kidney cysts are anatomically seen as round pouches that are filled with fluid that usually form in the kidneys. Kidney cysts can be associated with serious underlying disorders that may impair normal kidney function. They are known as simple or noncancerous cysts that commonly do not cause any complications and cancerous cysts.


Can Kidney Cyst Be Cured by Medical Management?

Mostly kidney cysts do not need any medical treatment. However, they require periodic monitoring. Kidney cysts that present with clinical symptoms only require treatment. They may produce problems such as blocking the flow of urine or blood through the kidneys. In these patients, a doctor (urologist) may recommend painkillers and antibiotics. The draining of the cyst is known as sclerotherapy.


What Can Happen if a Kidney Cyst Bursts Out?

A kidney cyst that bursts usually is noted to cause severe pain in the patient's back or side(flanks). Urinary obstruction can also be noted. A kidney cyst capable of obstructing the normal flow of urine through the ureters may lead to swelling of the kidney. It is due to the buildup of urine known by the condition hydronephrosis.


Is It Necessary to Remove Kidney Cysts?

If the patient's simple kidney cyst is not noted to cause any signs or symptoms and does not disturb the person's normal kidney function, they do not need any surgical treatment. Instead, the urologist may recommend the patient have a routine imaging test, such as ultrasound, to check whether your kidney cyst has enlarged.


Can Kidney Cysts Cause UTI?

Yes, kidney cysts can lead to the development of urinary tract infections. It is because of the alteration in the tissues of the kidneys caused by the kidney cysts. The bacteria that usually cause a urinary tract infection may enter the urinary tract through the urethral opening.


Can Kidney Cysts Bleed?

In certain situations, a kidney cyst might grow large enough to severely affect the kidneys, which increases the kidney's size massively. Under these conditions, the kidney may press on other nearby organs and causes pain in the flanks or stomach. A simple kidney cyst, when infected, can also bleed, which causes pain, fever, or blood in the urine known as hematuria.


Can a Kidney Cyst Be Mistaken for a Kidney Stone?

It is common that kidney cysts can often be mistaken for a renal stone or a gallstone. This is more common when the kidney cysts lie in the right upper quadrant region of the abdomen.


What Are Known as Simple Cysts on Kidneys?

Renal cysts are anatomical sacs of fluid that develop in the kidneys. They are usually categorized as "simple" cysts, which means that they have a thin wall and are filled with water-like fluid. Renal cysts are common as people's age increases. These cysts usually do not cause any severe symptoms or harm.


What Is the Normal Size of a Kidney Cyst?

Kidney cysts are structurally round, and they have a thin, clear wall. These cysts range in size from being microscopic to around 5 cm in diameter. These cysts can be frequently associated with serious underlying conditions that may lead to impaired kidney function. However, simple kidney cysts do not tend to cause any symptoms or complications.


What Size Is Considered as a Large Kidney Cyst?

Simple cysts are usually microscopic and develop only up to five cm in diameter. Any cyst above this size is considered to be a large kidney cyst, and it presents with symptoms such as pain. A large kidney might require surgical drainage. It has an associated risk of bursting out if it is not drained as early as possible.


What Symptoms Are Seen With Kidney Cyst?

The following are the common symptoms that are seen in clinics in patients who are affected with kidney cysts
- Pain on the patient's side, ranging between your ribs and your hip.
- Pain in the belly or back.
- A fever.
- Frequent urge to urinate.
- Blood in the person's urine or dark urine.


Can Kidney Cyst Be Cured Naturally?

The incidence of simple kidney cysts cannot be prevented in most individuals. However, you can reduce the risk by drinking plenty of water and always use less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Severe kidney cysts cannot be cured naturally. They would always require medical management.


What Are the Various Risks Associated With a Kidney Cyst?

The most common risks associated with kidney cysts are:
- Severe pain.
- Infection.
- Cardiac congestion.
- Severe infection can lead to septicemia.
- Death due to metabolic waste buildup.


Can Kidney Cysts Cause Symptoms of Leg Pain?

Severe loss of normal kidney function can cause metabolic waste to build up to increased blood levels. This metabolic waste buildup can damage muscles and nerves, leading to muscle twitches, muscle weakness, cramps, and pain. This pain is especially noted in the extremities. Thus, kidney cysts can cause symptoms of leg pain.


Can Turmeric Help in Curing Kidney Cyst?

Curcumin is a substance that is present in turmeric. Various studies discovered that curcumin was noted to inhibit MDCK cyst development at the kidneys significantly. Maximum dose of curcumin caused about 62% inhibition of the cyst formation. Curcumin slowed down cyst enlargement both in the MDCK cyst model and the embryonic kidney cyst model. Thus turmeric can help in curing kidney cyst.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
22 Jan 2020  -  4 min read




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