Cysts in Kidney (When to Be Concerned)

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Cysts in kidney are more common as people age. The cyst is usually characterized by round pouch of thin-walled, smooth tissue filled with fluid. Fortunately in most cases, this fluid-filled sac is simple kidney cyst which is usually harmless and not cancerous growth. But sometime it may also pose to some health risks (when to be concerned)!

Kidney cysts – topic overview

They could be associated with some disorders that eventually impair the function of the kidneys. But again more commonly, they are a type called simple kidney cysts that rarely cause serious complications. And this type is what we’re talking about in this section.


It’s not fully known yet what causes these cysts. Currently, research suggests that they develop when the kidney’s surface layer weakens and forms diverticulum (a pouch) which then fills with fluid, disengages, and develops into a cyst.

As noted before, age is often to blame – the risk of having the condition increases with age. Furthermore, gender may also have an effect. It’s relatively more common in men than in women.


The cyst looks like an oval or round fluid-filled pouch that typically has a well-defined outline. It usually develops in the surface of the kidney. However sometime it may also form inside the kidney.


*Image credit to Mayo

Most of the time, kidney cysts don’t cause any symptoms. However, this doesn’t mean that you can ignore them. It’s still important to keep monitoring them!

How is kidney cyst diagnosed?

It is rarely to be concerned, and even it is often accidentally diagnosed. Many times it is discovered through an imaging test for another condition.

image_illustration414Standard procedures and tests to diagnose cysts in the kidneys include:

  1. Imaging tests such as with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound scan, or CT-scan (computerized tomography scan). As the name suggests, these tests can help provide clearly, detailed images of your kidneys to see whether there is any abnormal growth such as cyst or even cancer.
  2. Blood tests to help evaluate your kidneys health. If kidney function is impaired, enlarged kidney cyst is one of possible answers.

Although kidney cyst is usually harmless, but it may also occasionally cause the following discomforts and complications:

  1. Kidney pain and fever that can occur due to an infected kidney cyst.
  2. Over time it may burst, causing severe pain in the flank area.

Does it hurt kidney? It rarely impairs the kidney function. But sometime it could also be large enough to cause urine obstruction and kidney swelling.

About polycystic kidney disease

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) – inherited condition in which too many cysts (clusters of cysts) develop and grow primarily within the kidney – is different from simple kidney cysts.

In PKD, the cysts may also develop in other parts /organs of the body such as colon, spleen, pancreas, liver, and ovaries. Typically, it requires intensive treatment and monitoring. Although there is still no cure, some treatments are available to help control the symptoms and prevent the complications of the condition.

The most common problem associated with PKD is high blood pressure, which is also the starting point for other problems to occur. Other complications of the condition include:

  1. Kidney failure. Many patients with PKD experience poor kidney function and even kidney failure. This risk rises with advancing age.
  2. Pregnancy complications. Women with PKD should consult first with a doctor or a genetic counselor before getting pregnant. The condition can run in families. Moreover, it carries some healthy risks and pregnancy complications for both the mother and baby.
  3. The risk of having cysts in the liver or other organs of the body!
  4. Aneurysm, a balloon-like bulge in the brain’s blood vessel. This risk is higher in patients younger than age 50.
  5. The risk of developing sacs or pouches in the colon’s wall, causing colon problems.
  6. Chronic pain in the flank area.
  7. Abnormalities in the heart valve. For instance, mitral valve prolapse (a condition in which the valve is no longer to close normally, causing blood to leak backward) is quite common in people with PKD.

There is no specific diet known to help treat PKD. But with or without the condition, eating right is always worth a try. Keeping hydrated, avoiding caffeine, and diet low in sodium are key points for kidney health and controlling blood pressure.

Cysts in kidney: when to be concerned?

Many people with simple kidney cysts are asked to have a watchful waiting procedure. In other words, they are usually suggested to periodically take an imaging test to see whether the cysts are still tolerated or the treatment should be taken promptly.

While most of the time cysts in the kidneys are considered harmless and don’t require treatment, this could be different when they have caused symptoms and complications.

Although these cysts are usually not serious or even sometime they may go away naturally without treatment, it’s not always easy to stop worrying about them. In general, the treatment may be suggested if some of the following conditions occur:

  1. Larry Passalacqua
    May 21, 2019 | Reply
    • Endi Ssi
      May 24, 2019 | Reply
  2. Larry Passalacqua
    May 21, 2019 | Reply
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    August 20, 2021 | Reply
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    October 26, 2022 | Reply

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