Conditions of the Ureter

What is the Ureter?

The ureter is a part of your excretory system. It is tube that carries urine from each kidney to the urinary bladder. Damage or dysfunction of the ureters can lead to major health complications.

Causes of Ureteral Conditions

Ureteral conditions can be caused by a blockage in the ureters due to a stone or tumour, or a congenital abnormality.

Ureteral Conditions

Listed below are a few conditions that can occur to the ureters:

Ureteral obstruction

This condition involves a blockage in one or both ureters. It is curable however, if left untreated, it may lead to complications such as sepsis, loss of kidney function and even death.

Development abnormalities of the ureter

  • Ectopic ureter: A developmental abnormality where you are born with an extra ureter that does not drain into the bladder but instead outside it, such as into the urethra or vagina in females and the sex organs or near the prostate in males.
  • Duplicated ureters: You are born with two ureters draining a single kidney.
  • Megaureter: This is a ureter that has expanded to a width that is more than 7 mm diameter. It can be caused due to an obstruction in the ureter, reflux of urine or by a combination of these two.
  • Ureterocele: The part of the ureter closest to the bladder is dilated.
  • Vesicoureteral reflux: This is characterised by the backward flow of urine from the bladder into the ureter. Sometimes, the urine may flow back into the kidneys too.

Ureteral stones

A ureteral stone is formed due to high levels of uric acid, minerals and oxalates in the urine formed in the kidneys. The stone moves down the ureter and gets stuck at one point, blocking the flow of urine. Insufficient water intake, obesity, presence of urinary tract infections and a family history of kidney stones increases your risk of developing a ureteral stone.

Symptoms of the Various Ureteral Conditions

The common symptoms of ureteral conditions include pain, difficulty urinating, urinary tract infection (UTI), nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling and discomfort, and leakage of urine (urinary incontinence).

Diagnosis of Ureteral Conditions

Diagnosis of ureteral conditions is performed by a skilled urologist, and is based on your symptoms, family and medical history and results of your abdominal ultrasound and bladder, ureter and kidney X-rays.

Treatment of Ureter Conditions

Ureteral stones can be treated using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain relief medications. Ureteral obstruction treatment is based on the removal of the obstruction or diversion of urine by the following methods:

  • Drainage procedures: These involve removing urine from your ureters, urinary bladder or kidneys through a tube such as a ureteral stent or a catheter.
  • Surgical procedures: Surgery may be recommended if conservative treatments fail to relieve the symptoms. The surgery may be performed as an open surgery, or minimally invasively, through endoscopic, laparoscopic or robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery.

Developmental abnormalities can be left untreated if they do not present with any symptoms. However, surgery is recommended to treat severe conditions. The different surgeries include re-implantation of the ureter, nephrectomy and uretero-ureterostomy.