Kidney Cyst: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is a kidney cyst?

A kidney cyst is a simply rounded pouch or sac-like structure formed of smooth, thin tissue wall. It is a sort of closed pocket structure normally filled with fluid and grows inside the kidneys, also occur in only one or both the kidneys. Cyst is not like a polycystic disease of kidneys which is a type of progressive disease and leads to a complete renal failure. These are just simple benign cysts that do not cause any harm.

Kidney Cyst

The kidney cysts are mainly f two types- simple cysts and polycystic disease of the kidney. Simple cysts do not affect the kidney function however the polycystic disease is an inherited type of condition which leads to multiple cysts formation inside the kidneys affecting their functioning and finally causing damage to kidneys with the gradual increase in their size and number.

The harmless simple cysts usually do not cause any symptoms. As they do not affect the kidney functioning so they are hard to identify without doing any tests like scanning in which the image can be seen along with its size and location.

Some cysts are microscopically small in size that using a microscope to see them is not enough. On the other hand, there are few cysts which grow to such abnormal sizes that they appear like a tennis ball inside the kidneys. These abnormally large cysts take up space around them as they grow and put pressure on the surrounding organs which effect the functioning of the organs as well. Due to which surrounding organs like heart, lungs, and liver etc might be affected.

The kidney cysts can be diagnosed by the urologist after few tests like:

  • Imaging: 

    In the imaging tests, like an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI), and a computerized tomography (CT) scan are normally used to identify simple cysts of the kidney. It can help the physician to observe and decide whether it is a tumor or kidney cyst.

  • Kidney function tests: 

    In this test, blood sample taken is checked for any impaired kidney function which might have been caused by the presence of kidney cyst.

  • Ultrasound:

    In this test sound waves are used to generate pictures of the kidneys to reveal the presence of cyst and its size. By doing this test growth of the cysts can be cross-checked the time and again.

If the cyst is small and doesn’t cause any problems with the kidneys than any immediate treatment might not be required instead scans to keep growth in check every 6 months to 12 months must be done to avoid any future complications of renal disease.


Different causes of kidney cyst?


The main cause of the simple kidney cysts is not understood completely however they do not appear any type of inherited disease. It certainly has some link with the male gender and age group.  Usually, people with 50 and above of age have this diseased condition of cysts. Size of the cyst also increases sometimes with the age and cause more complications in long-term like after 10-15 years.

Few explanations for the cause of cysts are available like tiny tubules of the kidneys present in millions which collect urine, in rare cases, tubules start to grow and form fluid-filled sac like cysts. Another theory is that weakened tubule areas form diverticula cysts filled with fluid.  Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) on the other hand is an inherited kidney condition, which is passed over the generations via genes present in the families. PKD causes permanent damage to the kidneys and 50 percent of the people above 60 years of age normally experience this condition. Permanent renal failure can be caused by PKD if its main cause is not identified and treated on time.

Few complications that might occur in cyst disease:

Cysts lead to complications very rarely as they are even less prone to cause symptoms in most of the cases then complications appear way too far.

  • A cyst might get infected and burst up inside.
  • Cyst can also cause blockage in the flow of urine out from the kidneys and can cause severe kidney disease complications if not treated immediately.
  • Cyst also increases the blood pressure to extremely high levels.


Symptoms of kidney cyst?


Simple kidney cysts do not cause any noticeable symptoms. In most of the cases, in an ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT), scan tests kidney cysts are identified by the physician but most of them are usually harmless and are diagnosed in the tests done for other purposes.

Kidney Cyst

However, sometimes even the simple cysts which might grow abnormally and cause infections and show up symptoms like:

  • Fever along with chills due to infection can be present as a symptom of cysts inside the kidneys.
  • Cause pain in the pelvic region, lower back and between the ribs. Normally pain is mild but it might get severe if any cyst bursts inside causing infection and abscess. Pain in cysts is different from the shooting pain in case of kidney stones.
  • Swelling can also appear in the abdomen due to an internal infection.
  • An urgent feel of frequent urination can be felt which can be very discomforting.
  • Blood in the urine is also a symptom of cysts like in many other kidney diseases.
  • Abnormally dark color of the urine indicates the presence of cyst which must further be confirmed via scans.
  • It might even cause high blood pressure which shoots up high quickly and can lead to severe complications of the kidney disease. As kidney damage can also be caused by severe high blood pressure levels.


What are the available treatment options for kidney cyst?

If the small cyst present inside the kidneys do not cause any symptoms or any type of complications then even no treatment might be required. The physician might check via ultrasound and observe. Finally just inform the patient about the cysts which are harmless in the current situation until they lead any symptoms or effects in the body. Also, future ultrasound scans at regular intervals might be recommended to keep cyst growth in check. At times, simple cysts might fade away on their own. However, in the rare scenarios symptoms might appear due to cysts and there arises the need for the treatment.

Either of the following procedure must be followed:

  • Puncturing and draining out the cyst:

    The doctor will insert long needle passing through the skin into the cyst location to puncture it, and ultrasound will be used for the location guidance of the cyst. Then the doctor will drain out or aspirate the cyst completely and fill up the pouch or sac of the cyst with alcohol to shrink and hardens the tissue and avoid reoccurrence of fluid collection inside it and forming cyst again. This is also known as


  • Surgery for the removal of cyst:

    To reach the cyst, the surgeon makes multiple small incisions in the skin. Later using special tools and insertion of a small video camera is done inside. Watching the cyst on a video monitor of the operating room, the surgeon using the tools guide it to the kidney and reaching cysts drain it out. After that, the walls of the cyst are either cut or burned away completely in order to avoid recurrence. A larger cyst can even affect the kidney function so it is important to get it removed with the help of the surgery. During entire procedure, the patient will be in an unconscious state due to the effect of the general anesthesia. Surgeons usually remove the cysts laparoscopically via several small incision cuts. The entire surgery is done using very small and fine camera and instruments.

    Kidney Cyst

A hospital stay can be recommended by the doctor depending upon the procedure which has been chosen to remove the cyst and the current situation of the patient.

For the larger cysts that clearly cause symptoms the recommended treatments include mainly sclerotherapy and surgery.


Most simple kind of kidney cyst is considered harmless until they cause any symptoms. In case of large cysts growing abnormally, sclerotherapy or surgery would be the best treatment methods to remove the cysts without causing much damage to kidneys and even without future complications of the kidney.

Polycystic kidney disease is a more severe type of disease than the normal kidney cysts. Without treatment, PKD can be life-threatening by causing permanent damage to kidneys and many more associated complications like high blood pressure and even complete kidney failure.

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