Kidney cysts are round sacs filled with fluid that form in or on the kidney.
There are different types of kidney cysts. The most common kind is a simple kidney cyst. These kidney cysts may not cause any symptoms, and may not require treatment.
- If multiple cysts form, or if the cysts are related to cancer, they can cause serious complications for the kidneys and need to be drained or removed.
- The other type of kidney cyst is related to polycystic kidney disease. These cysts tend to be much more problematic than simple kidney cysts.
It is not well-known what causes kidney cysts to form. Theories point to the obstruction of tubules or a deficient blood supply to the kidneys as possible causes. Often, a simple cyst isn’t even detected unless an x-ray or MRI is needed for another condition. The cysts typically form in people over the age of 50.
On the other hand, polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder. In this chronic disease, multiple cysts form in the kidneys. This can cause enlargement of the kidneys. Kidney function may be reduced, and the kidneys can even fail. Cysts associated with PKD can cause high blood pressure and affect the blood vessels in the heart and brain. With PKD, cysts may also form in the liver. This can cause additional problems.
Simple kidney cysts may not produce any symptoms at all. Large simple cysts may cause dull back pain, fever, and abdominal pain. Signs and symptoms of PKD may be visible even when a baby is still developing in the womb. Babies with PKD might be undersized, with oversized kidneys.
Other symptoms of PKD can include pain, high blood pressure, and even kidney failure. But people can go years without exhibiting symptoms. Sometimes, people do not exhibit any symptoms of PKD until the cysts are over half an inch in size.
Simple kidney cysts may not require any treatment at all. But if they become infected, large enough to block the passage of urine, or burst, they may require puncturing or removal.
PKD always requires monitoring. Because this is a genetically based disorder, managing lifestyle factors is the best way of treating the disease. Diet can have real impacts on the disease. Being active, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, and keeping blood pressure and blood sugar in a healthy range can all help prevent kidney failure.