Kidney dysplasia may be caused by the mother’s exposure to certain drugs or by genetic factors. Pregnant women should talk with their health care providers before taking any medicine during their pregnancy. Drugs that may cause kidney dysplasia include prescription medicines, such as drugs to treat seizures and blood pressure medicines called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). A mother’s use of illegal drugs—such as cocaine—can also cause kidney dysplasia in her unborn child.
Kidney dysplasia can also have genetic causes. The disorder appears to be an autosomal dominant trait, which means one parent may pass the trait to a child. When kidney dysplasia is discovered in a child, an ultrasound examination may reveal the condition in one of the parents.
Several genetic syndromes that affect other body systems may include kidney dysplasia as one part of the syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms or conditions that may seem unrelated but are thought to have the same cause—usually a genetic cause. A baby with kidney dysplasia might also have problems of the digestive tract, nervous system, heart and blood vessels, muscles and skeleton, or other parts of the urinary tract.
Problems of the urinary tract that lead to kidney dysplasia might also affect the normal kidney. For example, one urinary birth defect causes blockage at the point where urine normally drains from the kidney into the ureter. Another birth defect causes urine to flow from the bladder back up the ureter, sometimes all the way to the kidney. This condition is called reflux. Over time, if these problems are not corrected, they can damage the one working kidney and lead to total kidney failure.