Vesicoureteral Reflux

What is Vesicoureteral Reflux?

When the urine abnormally flows from your bladder up into the urinary tract, this is known as vesicoureteral reflux. This allows bacteria in the urine to reach your kidneys, and that could result in infection, scarring, and kidney damage.

Unilateral reflux refers to VUR that only affects one of the ureters or one of the kidneys, but when both kidneys or both ureters are involved, it is called bilateral reflux.

Although this condition most commonly affects infants and young children, older kids and adults can also develop it.   Apart from a congenital defects in the valve that regulates the flow or urine between ureter and bladder, other  common causes of vesicoureteral reflux include surgery, injury or a recurring infection of the urinary tract that exerts pressure on the bladder.

What are the Symptoms of Vesicoureteral Reflux?

For many patients with VUR, no symptoms will be present. However, the most commonly seen symptom is a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Symptoms that are associated with a UTI include pain or a burning sensation during urination, a feeling of urgency to urinate, frequent urination, the feeling that you are unable to totally empty your bladder, and fever.

Vesicoureteral Reflux Causes

In the vast majority of vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) cases, the patient has a birth defect which makes the attachment between the ureter and bladder shorter than normal. Furthermore, the “flap valve” which prevents urine from flowing back up the ureter from the bladder doesn’t work properly.

This birth defect seems to be an inherited condition in many cases. 1 in 3 siblings of children with reflux will have the same problem, and if a mother has the condition, up to half of her children will have it too.

However, in some cases, it is an infrequent voiding pattern which appears to be the cause of VUR rather than a deformity with the ureter and bladder connection.

Often, a urinary tract infection (UTI) seems to be the thing which identifies VUR. However, the UTI isn’t necessarily the cause of VUR, but instead, VUR makes it more likely for UTIs to occur and become serious infections in the kidneys. This is because it is much easier for bacteria to enter the kidneys from the bladder and create an infection.

How is Vesicoureteral Reflux Treated?

A lot of children who develop VUR will not require treatment because their ureters will grow as they get older. Also, mild cases of this condition will typically resolve on their own by 5 years of age.

In the event that treatment is required, antibiotics are helpful at preventing and treating infections, as well as reducing scarring. Some children might require continuous antibiotic treatment, while others may only need these medications when a new UTI develops.

Severe cases might require surgery, or a Deflux injection may be used as an alternative to surgery.

Doctors may also advise a patient on dietary changes that can help prevent VUR in the future.

Vesicoureteral Reflux Prevention

It is not possible to prevent VUR in most cases since the cause is usually a genetic one. However, regular voiding of the bladder may help to prevent it occurring in the rare instances that genetics aren’t to blame.

Since UTIs tend to be more common and pose greater risks to those with VUR, it may help to take extra steps to prevent them. That bacteria which causes UTI is usually from feces. It can gather in the groin relatively easily and enter the urethra and bladder. To minimize the risk of this happening, it’s important to stay as clean as possible and thoroughly cleanse the groin after bowel movements.

It’s also important to notice the signs of bladder infection quickly in order that you can seek treatment before the infection travels up to the kidneys which can make the illness far more serious.

Bladder infection symptoms include:

  • Frequent and painful urination
  • Constant urgent need to urinate
  • Leaks, dribbles, and wetting due to lack of control