Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What do the kidneys do?
They remove waste products from your blood. They
do this by filtering the blood and making urine.
What are kidney cysts?
As people get older, fluid-filled sacs, called
"cysts," can form in the kidneys. These cysts are usually small, oval or round
thin-walled sacs with water in them.
Kidney cysts are almost always benign (not
cancer). Usually, the cysts cause no problems. In fact, people can go through
life without knowing that they have them.
How common are kidney cysts?
Up to 50 percent of people older than 50 years
of age have kidney cysts.
How are kidney cysts found?
Almost all kidney cysts are found on tests such
as ultrasound, CT or MRI exams (ways of "taking a picture" of your insides) that
are done because of problems in other parts of the body. The cysts are called
"incidental" because they are found while a doctor is looking for something else
and because of their benign nature.
If I have a kidney cyst, what will
my doctor want to do?
First, your doctor will ask if you're having any
problems such as pain on your side between your ribs and your hip, pain in your
belly, a fever, frequent urination or blood in your urine. If you're having any
of these problems, your doctor will probably examine you and order lab tests.
If you're not having any of those problems and
your kidney cyst is small, you probably don't need any treatment. Your doctor
might want to check the cyst again with a CT scan in 6 to 12 months. If you
start having problems, your doctor might want you to have a CT or MRI scan of
your kidney to see if the cyst is growing. Remember that most people with kidney
cysts never have problems and never need extra CT scans.
If your kidney cyst is large or if it contains
calcifications (hard, stony pieces) or dense tissue, you might need to have CT
scans every so often so that your doctor can watch for changes in the cyst. To
get more information about the cyst, your doctor might also want you to have an
Will I need surgery to remove a
Probably not. Most kidney cysts are harmless and
don't need to be removed. Your doctor will send you to a urologist (a doctor
with special training in kidney problems) if your kidney cyst keeps getting
bigger, if you have problems because of the cyst or if there is any concern that
the cyst might be a cancer.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and
Kidney Diseases (NIDDK): www.niddk.nih.gov