An enlarged kidney can be a painful and recurring condition that requires specialized treatment. In most cases an enlarged kidney affects people over age 30, and treatment can be a life-long process.
An enlarged kidney is symptomatic of polycystic kidney disease, a predominantly hereditary disease in which a large number of cysts grow within the kidney. These cysts cause blockages that result in a buildup of fluid, and this buildup causes the kidneys to enlarge and become infected.
Most Common Symptoms
The two most common symptoms of polycystic kidney disease are hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, and blood in the urine. Blockage in the kidneys prevents blood from flowing to the kidneys as it should, and when the circulatory system senses that the kidneys are not receiving enough blood it will increase the heart rate, forcing the pumping of more blood. This creates high blood pressure.The kidneys are part of the system that creates urine, and if the kidneys are backed up with blood, then some of that blood will show up in the urine.
As the kidneys enlarge, they begin to put pressure on the abdominal cavity and the back. For this reason, some of the more severe symptoms of polycystic kidney disease are abdominal cramps and pains, along with sharp back pain. It is normally the back pain accompanied by the abdominal cramps that indicates enlarged kidneys.
Polycystic kidney disease can be characterized by the kidney stones and/or kidney failure. A diagnosis before these symptoms show up is possible, but kidney stones and kidney failure are late-stage symptoms of the disease. Kidney infections that cause abdominal pain and pain during urination also could arise.
In most cases doctors choose to treat the symptoms of polycystic kidney disease rather than remove the cysts. Because kidney function can be regulated with proper diet and medication, and because of the numerous cysts that normally form over the years, removing the cysts is rarely an option. A doctor usually will opt to treat the symptoms, and then keep a close eye on kidney function and the patient's progress. It is also important to control infection so that the enlarged kidney does not cause other organs to become infected. In extreme cases it may be necessary to remove the waste from the blood through dialysis, or if dialysis is not effective, then removing the kidney or a kidney transplant would be necessary. A transplant would be necessary only if both kidneys are affected, or if the patient has only one kidney and it is enlarged.