An enlarged kidney is a condition in which a kidney is larger than its normal size. Generally, kidney enlargement is a symptom of an underlying disease or disorder of the kidneys. Some common illnesses that may cause this to occur include polycystic kidney syndrome, a kidney stone and unilateral hydronephrosis. Most of the time, the enlarged kidney is treated by treating the underlying cause of this condition.
The kidneys are vital to human survival. Most people are born with two of these bean shaped organs, which are located in the middle portion of the back. Kidneys function by removing excessive water and waste from the bloodstream. This waste eventually becomes urine, which is passed through tubes, known as ureters, into the bladder where it is eventually released from the body.
Polycystic kidney syndrome is a condition in which multiple cysts grow within the kidneys. The water-filled cysts are typically benign or noncancerous growths that can vary in size. An enlarged kidney is generally a symptom of this syndrome, as the cysts will cause the kidneys to expand. Other common symptoms may include abdominal swelling, back pain, headache, frequent urination and high blood pressure. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to other serious health problems, such as stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.
A kidney stone is a hard deposit of minerals and salt that form inside the kidney. Commonly, stones form as minerals in urine crystallize and attach to each other. The development of stones inside the kidneys can cause them to grow, leading to an enlarged kidney. Kidney stones can grow quite large. An individual with this condition may experience frequent and painful urination, nausea, fever and pain in the back, abdomen or sides.
Unilateral hydronephrosis refers to one enlarged kidney that is swollen due to backed up urine. If both kidneys are swollen the condition is known as bilateral hydronephrosis. Generally, these conditions occur as a result of another problem with the kidneys which prevents urine from entering into the bladder and therefore backing up in the kidneys. An obstruction can be a possible reason for this occurrence. For this reason, in addition to kidney enlargement, an abdominal mass can sometimes be present in an individual with this condition.
If a doctor suspects a patient to have an enlarged kidney, he or she will generally refer the patient to a doctor specializing in nephrology, the study of kidney diseases and treatments, or urology, the study of diseases and treatments of the urinary tract of all people and reproductive organs in men. The doctor will typically send the patient for a medical diagnostic test to pinpoint the cause of the enlarged kidney, so a treatment plan can be made. Any symptoms of a problem with the kidneys should be investigated by a health care professional at once, as untreated problems could lead to the kidneys becoming damaged or failing to function all together.