Cysts are thin walled fluid or air-filled sacs which are not part of the healthy body though commonly harmless. When our kidneys become affected by them, the condition is called kidney cysts or renal cysts. Truly speaking, the majority of kidney cysts are benign (not cancerous) simple cysts that vary from one to multiple in number and are common in elderly people which are often missed. Nevertheless, these simple cysts aren’t same as the ones occur in the dreaded polycystic kidney disease (PKD) which is a fairly common inherited disorder responsible for kidney failure. PKD will be discussed a bit later.
Studies reveal that approximately one-third of adults above 50 years of age have simple cysts in their kidneys and as most cases are not symptomatic, they go unnoticed.
In fact, they might. The real reason for simple cysts is not yet understood though many hypotheses made by scientists prevail. However, male sex is more prone to get them than the fairer sex and also more frequent in individuals above 50. Of course, these are not risk factors as they are more ‘contributing factors’.
If you are an above 50-year male, you might. As most are not symptomatic you will never know. However, this is not always the case as some cysts may exert a number of symptoms which are listed below.
If you are having one or more of above features for some time it may indicate that cysts may be enlarging or already infected. So it is ideal to consult a doctor as soon as possible, for confirmation and excluding other conditions (Differential diagnoses) like kidney stones.
Though rare, cysts can occasionally cause complications.
So if you are experiencing the characteristic cyst pain, better meet your physician.
The doctor will ask a number of questions aimed at differentiating cysts from other similar conditions. After a thorough history and a physical examination, he will probably recommend an imaging test like an ultrasound, CT or MRI. These can recognize the cysts along with its parameters like size, location, and content. In suspicion of a malignancy (cancer) ultrasound assisted aspiration from cyst using a needle, and examination of the aspirate for malignant cells are mandatory and lifesaving.
Another thing your doctor will do is ordering some lab tests like serum electrolytes and creatinine for evaluating your kidney function which will be abnormal in renal insufficiency.
Asymptomatic small simple cysts do not need any treatment. But problematic large cysts may need medical or surgical intervention. The most commonly practiced methods are,
Despite the evolution in medical science, there is no ‘sure’ way to prevent kidney cysts. Nonetheless, drinking adequate water without being dehydrated and minimum salt consumption can have an inhibitory effect on them.
Unlike the harmless simple cysts, PKD can fill the kidneys with a number of cysts ultimately shutting down their activity leading to death. This is an inherited disorder and the fourth common cause of renal failure. When the kidneys are failing less fluid will be excreted causing fluid overload leading to high blood pressure, a characteristic feature of PKD. However, this condition is comparatively less frequent than simple cysts.