When an organ is reduced in size due to an ailment or disuse this is known by the term atrophy. The shrinkage in size of one or both of the kidneys may be known as atrophic kidney or renal atrophy. The kidneys shrink due to an inadequate blood supply, loss of nephrons or a combination of the two. The renal veins and arteries may also shrink due to loss of nephrons.
Renal atrophy can be caused by any condition which has a negative impact on the nephron function such as acute pyelonephritis, a urinary tract obstruction or a renal disease. Kidney function may also be negatively affected by ischemia which is caused by an inadequate flow of blood to the kidneys which leads to a decreased supply of oxygen and nutrients. The narrowing of the renal arteries which occurs when fatty deposits accumulate inside the arterial walls is known as atherosclerosis. This along with the formation of renal cysts can cause ischemia. Blood clots may cause renal artery occlusion which restricts blood flow to the kidneys due to a blockage in the major arteries. Renal atrophy may also be caused by reflux nephropathy. This condition causes damage the kidneys due to back flow of urine.
Thinning of the functional tissue of the kidney, a condition called renal parenchyma, may also be associated with renal atrophy. This condition is caused when increased pressure on the tissues or compression of the intra-renal veins and arteries lead to an obstruction in the urinary tract. The symptoms of this condition are similar to those of a urinary tract infection. People suffering from this condition may experience a frequent need for urination, blood in the urine and pain when urinating. Kidney atrophy is likely to lead to a great degree of kidney pain. The nephrons can also be damaged by obstructive uropathy. This condition interferes with the normal urine flow and can cause back pressure within the kidneys. The kidneys may begin to shrink in size and waste away due to the chronic loss of kidney function that may occur from this condition.
Diagnosis of Atrophic Kidney and Treatment
The underlying cause of renal atrophy needs to be determined by a doctor before an effective treatment plan can be devised. Imaging procedures such as an MRI or CT scan may be more help in diagnosing this condition than either intravenous urography or sonography would be. The extent of the damage to the kidneys will also be a factor when determining what treatment is necessary. Medications can be used to treat acute pyelonephritis or a urinary tract infection but dialysis is the only way to treat renal failure. Changes to lifestyle may also be needed. Kidneys can become damaged by excessive alcohol consumption and people who are prone to kidney disease should cut down on their alcohol intake. Increasing the amount of water that is drank and following a renal diet can help people who are suffering from a renal disease to take care of their kidneys.