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.