Kidney dysplasia -- which experts may refer to as renal dysplasia or multicystic dysplastic kidney disorder -- is characterized by abnormal internal structures of one or both kidneys, a result of altered development in utero. Kidney dysplasia is often confused with polycystic kidney disease, but they are different conditions. Renal dysplasia causes reduced kidney function of varying degrees. Damage to only one kidney is called unilateral renal dysplasia, and damage to both kidneys is called bilateral renal dysplasia. Some people with kidney dysplasia have no health issues at all, while others may need dialysis or develop symptoms over time.
When kidneys develop normally, two thin tubes of muscle known as ureters expand into the kidneys and create the tiny tubules found in a healthy kidney. These tubules collect urine from the growing baby in the womb. Kidney dysplasia occurs when the ureters do not grow and branch out as they normally would. The urine that should have been collected by tubules builds up. The collected urine inside the growing kidney has no route of escape so it forms fluid-filled sacs or cysts within the kidney. Normal, functioning kidney tissue cannot grow in the space occupied by the cysts.
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