Atrophic Kidney

The so-called atrophic kidney, which ultimately represents advanced kidney scarring, can – if not treated – lead to a loss of kidney function. In the final stage, urinary poisoning occurs. Shrunk kidney is a disease that often goes unnoticed for a long time.

Atrophic Kidney

What is a shriveled kidney?

If the kidney becomes smaller and smaller, this is referred to as a so-called atrophic kidney. The shrunken kidney weighs an average of 80 grams; in many cases the weight can also be significantly less. The size is around eight by four centimetres. See bestitude for Meanings of Urea Cycle Defect.

Various reliable methods are available to detect the extent and structure, with the physicians relying exclusively on the ultrasound method. Sometimes – if a shriveled kidney has been diagnosed – other changes can also be detected; in many cases the renal cortex also shrinks.


A contracted kidney can be caused by high blood pressure, circulatory disorders, chronic inflammation (promoted by bacteria) or by drugs that damage the kidneys or diabetes. If the patient suffers from extremely high blood pressure, this can lead to a contracted kidney; the contracted kidney also causes an increase in blood pressure, resulting in significant circulatory problems.

As a result, there is a constant attack on the kidneys. For this reason it is important that this vicious cycle is broken – as soon as possible. The “shrink kidney on one side”, on the other hand, occupies a special position. This is caused by vascular calcification, whereby sometimes bacteria, which can trigger chronic inflammation, promote a unilateral contracted kidney. This can also promote high blood pressure, so that the second kidney is also attacked.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The following symptoms are characteristic of a contracted kidney: The patient complains of swollen legs (water retention), suffers from loss of appetite, is exhausted, complains of muscle cramps and visual disturbances, is afflicted by severe itching and repeatedly has fever and headaches.

The first symptom that indicates a damaged kidney is the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. Shrunk kidneys cause swelling of the eyelids, ankles or lower legs. However, those swellings that are caused by water retention do not immediately indicate a contracted kidney; there are numerous other diseases that can also cause such symptoms.

If the person concerned has to go to the toilet again and again, and the urge to urinate at night is particularly intense, advanced kidney damage can be assumed. However, if only very small amounts of urine are excreted, this can sometimes already be an indication that the kidneys are about to lose their function.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Doctors often diagnose a contracted kidney during a routine examination. The doctor notices changed values ​​that can be determined by a urine test. The doctor discovers protein and blood in the urine ; these are two substances that are usually not allowed to be found in urine.

The protein causes cloudy urine; the blood admixtures make the urine dark yellow to red. A physical examination is then carried out. First, the doctor taps the kidney area, where he can sometimes find water that has already been stored. If the doctor carries out a blood test, he can – if there is a contracted kidney – detect high creatine values ​​(kidney value).

An ultrasound examination is carried out so that the doctor can be sure that it is a case of a contracted kidney. Subsequently, tissue samples from the kidneys can also be taken; however, these measures are only carried out by a specialist in nephrology.


A contracted kidney almost always leads to renal failure. First, the disease causes high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems such as ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrhythmia. In extreme cases, this leads to a heart attack and often to the death of the patient. A kidney transplant poses long-term health risks.

As a result of the procedure, chronic diseases of the cardiovascular system, diabetes mellitus and viral infections often occur. A transplant also promotes the development of tumors such as skin or kidney cancer. The kidney transplant itself can also become diseased – this leads to chronic allograft nephropathy, which often leads to organ failure years later. Even classic rejection reactions such as fever and pain are not unlikely in a kidney transplant.

Complications can also occur with dialysis. For example, infections of the surgically placed vascular access as well as drops in blood pressure and the formation of blood clots are possible. As a result of a thrombosis, the procedure has to be stopped and the access opened again – often associated with further pain and stress for the patient. Increased protein and potassium intake can lead to life-threatening metabolic disorders as part of the blood wash. An increased phosphate content can promote vascular damage such as arteriosclerosis.

When should you go to the doctor?

A contracted kidney must always be treated by a doctor. This disease cannot heal itself, so the affected person always needs medical treatment. If the contracted kidney is not treated, in the worst case it can lead to kidney failure and the death of the person concerned. The earlier the contracted kidney is recognized, the better the further course of this complaint. A doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suffers from swollen legs.

The legs swell for no particular reason and the sufferer also suffers from water retention. Severe and especially sudden visual problems or severe headaches and fever can also indicate a contracted kidney. Most patients also suffer from nocturnal urination and swollen eyelids. If these symptoms occur, a doctor should be consulted in any case. A contracted kidney can be treated by an internist. There are no special complications.

Treatment & Therapy

The doctor only decides on a therapy when he has been able to find out exactly what the disease is. If the doctor has detected the atrophic kidney at an earlier stage, only the urine and blood values ​​​​are checked at the beginning. However, if a bacterial infection is present, the patient must be treated with antibiotics.

If the atrophic kidney is the result of a disorder in the immune system, special medication is administered which subsequently suppresses the immune system so that it cannot work “against itself”. Water retention is treated with draining medication as part of treating the symptoms. Subsequently, the patients also receive antihypertensive drugs, since the contracted kidney is responsible for high blood pressure.

If the adrenal glands are already restricted, there is an acute danger to life, so that the patient has to undergo dialysis several times a week. In the end, if the patient is in the last stage of the disease, there is no cure. The last resort is a new kidney.


Shrinkage kidneys can very well be prevented if people make sure that they drink enough fluids. For this reason, it is important that the recommended amount (two liters of water a day) is actually consumed. Subsequently, people suffering from high blood pressure should take action against it so that there is no further strain on the body (and no further strain on the kidneys).


A contracted kidney usually results in a complete loss of function of the organ. Follow-up care focuses on checking prescribed medication and adjusting it if necessary. The remaining kidney must also be checked to ensure that it is still working. In addition, the doctor conducts a detailed conversation with the patient, during which the further procedure is discussed.

In addition, it must be clarified whether a kidney transplant is an option. If both kidneys are damaged, measures must be taken to enable a transplantation in a timely manner. Chronic complaints such as neuropathy or congestion in the lungs must also be checked after follow-up care. After complications such as renal insufficiency or renal hypertension, therapeutic measures are also part of the aftercare.

The physical complaints sometimes cause psychological problems, such as anxiety disorders or mood disorders, which need to be clarified. As part of the aftercare, the doctor creates a final report and sometimes gives the patient general tips. The aftercare of the shriveled kidney is carried out by a specialist in internal medicine. Patients usually suffer from chronic diseases that need to be checked regularly. Monthly or even weekly doctor visits are typical and must be maintained consistently.

You can do that yourself

A contracted kidney requires constant medical supervision. Those affected have to be treated in a hospital because the organ is on the verge of complete loss of function.

The self-help measures are limited to taking the medication according to the doctor’s instructions and adhering to the strict diet. In any case, therapy should also be used as an accompaniment. It is best for affected people to consult a self-help group in order to exchange information with other affected people. Complications such as kidney failure require immediate treatment. The sick must be treated by an emergency doctor and then observed in the hospital. In the case of high blood pressure, the medication must be adjusted. People suffering from a contracted kidney must carry their emergency medication with them so that immediate action can be taken in the event of acute complications. If ventricular fibrillation sets in, medical advice is also required.

In some cases, kidney function can be partially restored. The prerequisite for this is that the causes of the contracted kidney are determined. It is best for patients to keep a complaint diary in which they note all symptoms and complaints. The doctor can use this information to identify a trigger more quickly and initiate appropriate therapy. In addition, various homeopathic remedies, such as arnica and aloe vera, help against the pain.