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Horseshoe kidney is a renal fusion anomaly which occurs in about one in every 500 births. Like other renal fusion anomalies, this condition is characterized by abnormalities during fetal development which cause the kidneys to be fused together. In the case of this particular kidney anomaly, the kidneys are fused in a U-shape which crosses the midline of the body; the name is a reference to the fact that the fused kidneys can resemble a horseshoe.
Many people with horseshoe kidney are unaware that they have this anomaly, and they experience no health problems as a result of their slightly unusual kidneys. In other cases, the variation in kidney shape can make people prone to kidney stones, obstructions in the urinary tract, cancers of the kidney, and urinary tract infections. In these instances, a medical imaging study can reveal horseshoe kidney, explaining why the patient is experiencing recurrent problems, and treatment can be focused on addressing the problem.
Some people with horseshoe kidney also have other developmental anomalies. In these cases, this condition may be diagnosed as part of the diagnosis of a larger constellation of medical problems. Trisomy 18 in particular commonly causes kidney fusion anomalies. In these cases, the anomalies may be diagnosed in utero or shortly after birth. The horseshoe kidney can cause various medical problems for the patient.
There is no cure for horseshoe kidney. Despite the fact that the shape of the kidneys is a bit unusual, they should continue to function normally in most patients. Slight variations in anatomy can make people more or less prone to complications as a result of their kidney configuration. Doctors generally only recommend treatment when the horseshoe kidney is causing a problem such as an infection, in which case the treatment is intervention for the medical issue, rather than the kidney anomaly.
People with horseshoe kidney who experience issues like recurrent infections and obstructions may be given advice which is designed to prevent or reduce the incidence of these complications. Changing the diet, taking certain medications, and so forth can sometimes help with these common problems. It is also advisable for patients who know that they have a renal fusion anomaly to inform their doctors, as it may become relevant in medical treatment. It is also helpful for new doctors to be aware of a medical history which includes congenital anomalies, so that when they are identified, the doctor knows that the patient is aware of the issue.
I didn't even know I had horseshoe kidney until I started getting urinary tract infections often. My doctor asked me a lot of questions about my lifestyle, and when she could find nothing in it that pointed toward a cause for my frequent infections, she ordered an ultrasound.
She found my oddly shaped kidney, and she let me know that I would have to take extra precautions to avoid getting infections. I was prone to them more than most people, so all I could do was change my diet a little.
She suggested taking cranberry supplements and drinking cranberry juice. This would keep bacteria from clinging to my urethra.
She also said that eating pineapple and yogurt would help. I have been taking, eating, and drinking everything she suggested, and I haven't had nearly as many infections this year as I had the previous year.
It saddens me that there is no surgery that could fix a horseshoe kidney. My son is afflicted with this condition, and he suffers from frequent kidney stones.
Every time he goes to the hospital for help passing the painful stones, he has to have them blasted up, and the doctor has to insert a catheter. He has to wear this catheter home for however long it takes to pass all the pieces of the stones.
He is a teenager now, so he has been reluctant to follow the dietary advice offered by the doctor. I feel certain that in a few years, he will grow so weary of hospital visits and pain that he will make a few simple changes.
He drinks entirely too much caffeinated soda. If he would cut down to one a day and drink plenty of water instead, he could possibly avoid all this trouble.