What Is Atrophic Kidney Disease: What Are Its Causes And Treatment

Human beings have two kidneys, each on left and right side of the vertebral column, at the back of the abdomen. Anatomically they are situated just beneath the rib cage. The right kidney is slightly lower in position than the left kidney. The main function of kidney is to get rid of toxic metabolic end products from the body. It also maintains fluid volume, electrolyte balance, and secretes hormones.

The normal weight of each kidney in males is approximately between 120 to 175 gm. In females the weight is slightly less. It is between 110 to 150 gm.

The length of each kidney is 4 to 5 inches. The width is around 2 inch.

Nephrons are the main functioning part in the kidney. They are small tube like primary organs present in kidney. There are at least 0.8 to 1 million nephrons in each kidney. These tiny tube like structures are responsible for separating waste from the blood and absorbing back the required salts that are needed by the body. If the nephrons function normally in an individual, his blood pH level is well maintained, his blood pressure and blood volume remain within required normal limit.

However, if the nephrons are damaged or function abnormally, the kidney function is affected leading to atrophic kidney.

What Causes Atrophic Kidney?

Atrophic kidney is a term used when the size of kidney becomes small due to any kidney disease or due to non functioning kidney. An atrophic kidney is very small in size. It may be due to impairment of blood supply to the kidney or damage to the functioning units ‘nephrons’. Following are the conditions that can cause shrinkage of kidney, in other words kidney atrophy.

  • Long standing kidney infections such as pyelonephritis, polycystic kidney, and other chronic renal diseases that can affect the nephrons.
  • Renal Ischemia; it occurs due when there is less circulation of blood to the kidneys. Inadequate circulation of blood may decrease the oxygen supply to the kidney. This may affect the kidney function and cause atrophy. The reason for ischemia as a result of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the artery due to accumulation of fat in its wall) of renal artery.
  • Blockage of renal artery as a result of blood clot.
  • Reflux nephropathy.
  • Damage to the renal parenchyma as a result of obstruction in the urinary system.
  • Compression of blood vessels as a result of renal cyst.

Pain while passing urine, pain in abdomen, blood in urine, increased frequency to urinate are some of the symptoms of renal atrophy.

Treatment And Removal Of Atrophic Kidney

Atrophic kidney can be singular or bilateral. It depends on what the reason is. When a person is diagnosed with atrophic kidney the first thing the doctor wants to know is how much is the kidney functioning. At this stage it is not important to know the size of kidney and the percentage of its function left. If the kidney is completely non functional as a result of complete damage to the kidney, there is no other option left but to remove the non functional kidney.

However, when kidney is found to be functioning even at its minimal, all attempts are made to revitalize the kidney function. In case of urinary tract infection that is responsible for kidney atrophy, necessary medications are administered to reverse the bad kidney function. If the patient is suffering from kidney failure due to chronic kidney disease he may require undergoing dialysis. There may be a need for renal transplant in future.

Few lifestyle changes can help to reduce the chances of atrophic kidney. Excessive use of alcohol can play a spoilsport in kidney problems. Therefore, if a person is suffering from kidney disease he should stop alcohol consumption. If you are suffering from renal failure you should ask your doctor regarding the intake of fluid and water. Also you should consume less amount of salt. Do not take any medication without consulting your doctor.

19 Comments

  1. Nada said:

    I want to know the list of food that a patient with atrophy kidneys can eat, without any risk on his health.

    September 28, 2012
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      I want to know the list of food that a patient with atrophy kidneys can eat, without any risk on his health.
      Atrophic kidney is a medical terminology used when the size of kidney is smaller than normal. It is definitely an abnormal kidney, but at the same time you should also know the extent of kidney function. Your doctor will be able to tell you after doing several diagnostic tests. Since diet plays an important role in management of kidney disease, you should always discuss with your doctor before making any changes in diet and food.
      • If your doctor tells you to restrict fluid intake, drink only the amount that is recommended in whole day.
      • Eat less salty food.
      • Suck a lemon wedge or an ice cube if you become thirsty.
      • Eat food that is low in phosphorus, such as broccoli, zucchini, hard candy etc.
      • Apple beans, rice, pears, onions, grapes, cucumber, carrots, cranberries, cherries, etc are all low in potassium. In kidney disease moderate or low potassium food is preferred. However, it will depend on how much you eat. If the serving size is large, low potassium food can become high potassium food.
      • Avoid eating high protein diet such as meat, poultry, eggs, milk products.
      • Eat low protein foods such as vegetables, grains, fresh beans.
      So the diet should be of low sodium, low protein, low potassium and phosphorus.

      September 28, 2012
      Reply
  2. SM said:

    My left kidney has atrophied. It was identified in 2005 by medical test but I do not have any problem. I am not able to conceive although I am married for 17 years. I would like to know the relation between kidneys and sexual organs.

    December 16, 2012
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      The reproductive system and urinary system are grouped together because of their close proximity. It is also because of their common embryological origin as well as common pathways, such as male urethra. However, kidney disease may seldom affect reproduction of a person. It is only if the testes in males or ovaries in females (both are reproductive organs) when affected can lead to reproduction problems.

      December 17, 2012
      Reply
  3. Robert Workman said:

    I have one atrophied kidney, high blood pressure and decrease kidney function in my other kidney. I have feet and leg cramps along with swelling in my feet and legs due to hyperkalemia. I am also suffering from loss of concentration, appetite and diarrhea and have sleeping trouble. Do I need to be put on dialysis?

    October 13, 2013
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      The symptoms are suggestive of kidney failure. However, you have not mentioned what is your blood serum creatinin level. Usually doctors recommend dialysis after rise of creatinin level to certain point. You have to consult your physician, after proper examination and medical reports he may be able to recommend the best treatment necessary.

      October 15, 2013
      Reply
  4. IG said:

    My both kidneys are smaller in size. I have bilateral kidney atrophy. I am having high blood pressure and anemia. What should I do to maintain function of my kidney?

    September 24, 2014
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      There are many causes of kidney shrinkage. It may be congenital, it may be due to end stage kidney disease, or it may be a condition called chronic pyelonephritis. Usually the doctor chalks out the plan of treatment. He may prescribe medication to control hypertension and anemia. Also he may advice to restrict salt intake or include it minimally in the diet. Also protein content may be limited together with fats in diet. If you are smoking and drinking alcohol you should quit it immediately. Live a regular healthy life with moderate exercise in the morning. Avoid infection and influenza. Check with your doctor regularly.

      September 25, 2014
      Reply
  5. MK said:

    One of my patients is having pain in left flank since 2 months. He is 60 years of age. The pain is dull and he does not complain of any urinary symptoms. Ultrasound and IVP of Kidney, Ureter and Bladder shows atrophic kidney left side. Right kidney is functioning normal. My question is does the pain in left flank has any relation with atrophic kidney. Is there an indication for nephrectomy?

    November 18, 2014
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      There are several causes for pain in left flank. One of the reasons may be because of atrophic kidney. However you have to rule out other causes as well. The best approach for you would be to refer the patient to an urologist. After examining him and with the help of various other urological tests, he may be able to tell the exact diagnosis.

      November 18, 2014
      Reply
  6. QU said:

    I am 26 and was diagnosed with hypertension last year, and later they found that my right kidney is atrophic with cortical scaring. Blood tests show that my kidney function is normal, and I am on medication to lower my blood pressure. Can someone live a normal life or eventually will my kidney function start seeing problems?

    March 23, 2015
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      Majority of people live a healthy life with one functional kidney. However, the person should take care to remain as healthy as possible when he has one functional kidney. In general most people have least problems with one functioning kidney. But sometimes long term problems may be seen in some individuals, there may be slight loss of kidney function in long run. It is negligible and it takes long time. The person may suffer from hypertension later in life. Usually with one functional kidney the life span remains normal. Care is needed to control high blood pressure such as reduced intake of salt and proper medicines as prescribed. Person should also keep a follow up with his doctor at least once in a year. The health care provider will check the functioning of healthy kidney by recommending doing several blood tests related to kidney health.

      March 23, 2015
      Reply
  7. Donna said:

    I am 63 years old female and have a right atrophic kidney. I have been getting recurrent UTI’s in the past year approx. 4 times with right flank pain and I know the atrophic kidney is not functioning at all. I am having a cystcoscopy after 15 days to check out my bladder and kidneys and take sample of fluid. My urologist is wondering if the atrophic non-functioning kidney is causing UTI’s. Maybe I should have the atrophic kidney removed. It is now 6.2 cm in size.

    April 8, 2016
    Reply
  8. Ashey said:

    I am 44 years old male and just about 3 years before I came to know thru ultrasound test that I have 50 % shrinked kidney. All the tests shown normal functioning but for last six months or so my urination is not free flowing like previous days. Does it mean I have some issue which needs immediate consultation with my doctor?

    August 10, 2016
    Reply
  9. NS said:

    What is the cause, sign and symptoms of congenital renal atrophy? How it will be diagnosed early?

    April 30, 2017
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      Renal atrophy is small sized kidney in comparison to age, gender and weight of the patient. Congenital renal atrophy is small size of the kidney since birth. The renal architecture is remains same but number of nephrons are reduced. A child born with unilateral hypertrophy may not have any complications and live with one properly functioning kidney. But if both kidneys are hypertrophied, it is life threatening. Renal atrophy can lead to renal failure. Symptoms of this disease are blood in urine, pain in lower back and flanks, painful urination, high blood pressure. Symptoms of the condition as well as several radiological tests and blood test help in diagnosis of renal atrophy. Treatment consists of dialysis or kidney transplant.

      September 6, 2018
      Reply
  10. ABC said:

    My son is 30 months old. Once when we had visited hospital for some minor problem, we came to know that my son has only one kidney since birth. Can he live a normal life with one kidney? Is there any special diet to be followed? Can he participate in sports activities as he grows?

    December 11, 2017
    Reply
    • PUP said:

      Normally everyone is born with 2 kidneys. However, in rare case out of 1000 children 1 child is known to be born with one functioning kidney. In ancient times most people did not know that they had one kidney and they did not suffer from any health problem. Today with advanced technology such as sonogram one kidney can be easily detected. Normally most people with one normal functioning kidney live full normal life. If the kidney is functioning normally the child is allowed to play most sports. However, this may also depend on the health of child, level of competition, level of physical activity etc. The child does not need any special diet if his single kidney is normal.

      August 16, 2018
      Reply
  11. Ranjs said:

    Our one and a half year baby boy has 238 urea and 2.56 creatinine. His left kidney is not showing in ultrasound and right kidney is very small. His weight is still 6 kg only. He has not any complications at all and he is very active. Due to pain and poor outcome I didn’t go for dialysis. Doctors have no idea that how much kidney function is remaining. They have given some medicine which is sodium bicarbonate syrup (Nodosis 1000mg), Septron, Levera, Iron and calcium syrup, rocatrol. Please suggest what should I do to save my child from this problem.

    January 26, 2018
    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.