What are Kidney Cysts?
Kidney cysts are fluid-filled sacs on the surface or within the kidneys. They may also grow on one or both kidneys and may have one or more growths on each kidney as well. These cysts come in various sizes, ranging from tiny and asymptomatic cysts to larger cysts several inches in diameter.
There are two main types of kidney cysts:
- Simple kidney cysts: the most common type and are typically benign as they do not cause any symptoms and are often discovered during routine medical imaging tests.
- Polycystic kidney disease (PKD): a hereditary condition characterised by the development of numerous cysts within the kidneys. This is a more serious condition where cysts gradually replace healthy kidney tissues, impairing kidney function.
If left untreated, kidney cysts may sometimes lead to complications. These include:
- An infected kidney cyst that causes fever and pain.
- A burst kidney cyst that causes severe pain.
- Blocked urine flow by the kidney cyst, which may lead to kidney swelling.
What are the causes of Kidney Cysts?
The exact cause of kidney cysts is still unknown, as more research is required to fully understand what causes them. However, a theory suggests that kidney cysts’ growth occurs when the kidney’s surface layer weakens and develops a pouch. The pouch fills with fluid, detaches, and becomes a cyst.
What are the common symptoms of Kidney Cysts in Singapore?
Most simple kidney cysts in Singapore are asymptomatic and often do not require treatment. However, some common symptoms associated with kidney cysts include:
- Dull, aching pain in the lower back or side (flank)
- High blood pressure
- Presence of blood in urine (haematuria)
- Frequent urination
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Impaired kidney function
Are Kidney Cysts painful?
While small cysts can cause no symptoms at all, in some cases, kidney cysts can cause pain and discomfort, especially in the lower back or side (flank) or abdomen. Larger kidney cysts are more likely to cause pain because they may press against surrounding kidney tissue or other organs.
A kidney cyst can become very painful if it becomes infected, bleeds, or ruptures. For those with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), where multiple cysts form in the kidneys, experiencing pain or discomfort may be more common due to the high number and size of cysts.
Who is at risk of developing Kidney Cysts in Singapore?
Individuals with the following factors may have an increased risk of developing kidney cysts:
- Age: simple kidney cysts are more common as we age and are often found in those above 50.
- Gender: men are more prone to kidney cysts than women.
- Genetics: there may be a genetic predisposition to developing kidney cysts, as they can run in families. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), in particular, is a genetic disorder that develops due to the formation of numerous fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys. Mutations in specific genes may also cause medullary cystic kidney disease (MCKD), a rare disorder where cysts form in the medullary (inner) part of the kidney.
- Underlying conditions: some kidney cysts can develop due to underlying conditions such as chronic kidney disease , long-term kidney dialysis, or prior kidney infection due to changes or damage in kidney tissue.
How are Kidney Cysts diagnosed in Singapore?
Kidney cysts are commonly detected during routine scanning. The following tests are also used to diagnose kidney cysts:
- Imaging tests: ultrasounds are frequently used to identify kidney cysts. Other imaging tests, such as computed tomography scans (CT scans) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may also be used in diagnosing kidney cysts.
- Blood tests: blood tests may be used to detect heightened levels of specific markers in the blood.
- Urine tests: urine tests or urinalysis reveal the presence of specific blood or proteins in the blood.
What are the treatment options for Kidney Cysts in Singapore?
Treatment for kidney cysts depends on the condition’s size, location, and severity. Small kidney cysts, especially simple cysts, are often benign and do not cause symptoms or health problems. In such cases, your urologist may recommend regular monitoring through imaging studies to track the size and growth of the cyst over time.
Other treatment options include:
- Medications: pain relief medications may be recommended to manage discomfort, or antibiotics may be prescribed to treat infections.
- Drainage: large or symptomatic kidney cysts that do not respond to other treatments may need to be drained or aspirated. This involves inserting a needle through the skin and into the cyst to remove the fluid. This procedure can provide relief from pain and pressure.
- Sclerotherapy: uses ultrasound imaging and a long needle to puncture the cyst and drain it. It is then filled with a certain solution (alcohol or chemical solutions) to harden it. This treatment aids in preventing the cyst from filling with fluid again and may cause scarring.
- Surgery (laparoscopy): uses a laparoscope, a tube equipped with a small and lighted video camera at the end, to observe and guide the surgeon’s tools to drain the cyst. The walls of the cysts are then removed from the body to minimise risks of the cyst’s regrowth.
Frequently asked questions
Simple kidney cysts (benign and asymptomatic) usually do not require surgical treatment. Through thorough observation and monitoring, simple kidney cysts can be resolved and managed without surgery. Periodic checkups are recommended to maintain the kidney’s stability and monitor the cyst’s size. In other cases where the kidney cysts become large or complex, surgery may be considered to remove them.
Simple kidney cysts are not considered serious in most cases. These are typically benign and are not a significant health threat. Therefore, individuals with simple kidney cysts often do not experience complications or symptoms. However, Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a more severe and complex condition. It may lead to kidney function impairment over time; hence, evaluating and observing it regularly is vital to managing it effectively.
No, the majority of kidney cysts are benign (non-cancerous). Simple kidney cysts, in particular, are typically not cancerous.