What Is Uropathy?

Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on February 20, 2024
3 min read

Uropathy, or obstructive uropathy, is a blockage in your urinary tract. As a result, you have trouble urinating (peeing). In the short term, the condition can cause discomfort. If left untreated, it can result in significant kidney damage.

Your urinary tract includes your kidneys and bladder. These organs are connected by tubes called ureters, which move urine from where it’s made in your kidney to your bladder, where it’s stored. 

When you pee, the urine leaves your bladder through another tube called the urethra. A blockage means urine doesn’t leave the bladder properly. It can then back up into your kidneys, which may lead to high blood pressure and kidney damage. 

One of the most common reasons for uropathy is an enlarged prostate. The prostate is an organ that produces some of the fluids found in sperm. It sits very near the urinary tract. As you age, your prostate can get enlarged and press on your ureters or urethra (the tube that carries urine outside your body). This leads to difficulty urinating. 

Having an enlarged prostate is common, especially if you’re over 60. But in some cases, it may be a symptom of prostate cancer. Your doctor may want to run tests to check. 

Other causes of uropathy include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Bladder tumor
  • Tumors or masses in your uterus
  • Retroperitoneal fibrosis – an illness that blocks your ureter
  • You were born with a narrow urethra
  • Scar tissue in your urethra
  • Bladder problems due to nerve damage‌

You’ll have symptoms if you have a blockage in your urinary tract. They may be sudden and noticeable right away, or they could start out mild and get worse over time. Some of the most common symptoms of uropathy include:

  • Pain in your sides
  • Frequent or sudden strong urges to pee
  • Trouble urinating
  • Incontinence or leaking urine
  • Weak urine stream
  • More frequent need to pee at night
  • Burning or stinging when you pee
  • Feeling like your bladder never fully empties
  • Fever, nausea, vomiting

If the condition gets more serious, you may notice changes in the color of your pee. You may have swelling in your arms and legs. You might develop high blood pressure. 

If you have a urinary tract blockage, your doctor will try to find out why. You may need blood tests to check for a possible infection. Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as an MRI, to see where the blockage is.

The first priority is to remove the blockage so urine can pass normally again. Your doctor can choose from several procedures to drain your kidneys and bladder. They include:

Ureteral stent. Doctors place a thin tube in your ureter to hold it open so urine can pass freely.

Kidney catheter. Doctors make an incision in your side so they can insert a catheter through your skin into your kidney. Urine then drains directly from your kidney into a bag outside your body.

Urinary catheter. Doctors insert a thin tube into your urethra to let urine drain from the bladder.

Your doctor will plan further treatment based on the cause of the blockage. They include:

Enlarged prostate. If the issue is an enlarged prostate, you may need testing for possible prostate cancer. If the enlargement isn’t caused by cancer, your doctor can prescribe medications to reduce the size of your prostate and ease symptoms.

Mass or growth. If you have a mass in another organ, your doctor will want to do further testing. You may need treatment for cancer. If you have a non-cancerous growth, your doctor will determine whether surgery or medication is the right option. 

Ureter obstruction. If you have a narrowing of your ureter, you may need a stent placed for the long term. You may also need surgery to remove the blockage.

Other issues. A kidney stone or a urinary tract infection might be the cause of your urinary problems. Kidney stones are painful. Your doctor can treat them with various procedures, depending on their size. If you have an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. 

Uropathy is a serious situation. If it’s left untreated, you could develop kidney damage. Talk to your doctor if you think you have a urinary tract obstruction.