Vesico-ureteral reflux (VUR), or simply reflux, is when urine flows backward from the bladder into one or both kidneys. Learn about reflux, what causes reflux and how it is treated, and what happens after treatment.

What is Reflux?

Vesico-ureteral reflux (also called VUR or reflux), is when urine flows backward from the bladder into one or both kidneys.

The urine flows backward from the bladder back into one or both kidneys because of a valve in the ureters. Ureters are tubes that allow urine to flow from the kidneys to the bladder. The valve is like a door that keeps urine from flowing backward. In children with reflux, the door does not always close properly.

What Causes Reflux?

Doctors are not sure what causes reflux. They do know that reflux happens naturally. Reflux is not caused by anything you or your child did. It is not anyone’s fault. Some doctors think reflux also runs in families.

What are Symptoms of Reflux?

  • Urinating more often than usual
  • Having trouble urinating
  • A burning or stinging feeling while urinating
  • A stomach ache
  • A fever

How Serious is Reflux?

Reflux can be mild or it can be serious. It depends how much urine is flowing backward into the kidneys. Doctors measure reflux on a scale from 1-5, with 1 being mild and 5 being serious.

How Do We Treat Reflux?

In many cases, reflux goes away on its own. It could take many years for it to go away. Children who have reflux have a higher risk of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI is an infection of the bladder, ureters or kidneys. It is important to treat UTIs so your child’s kidneys stay healthy, especially if they have reflux.

Most children with reflux do not need surgery for reflux. Your child’s doctor will talk with you about the best treatment for your child.

Did You Know...?

In many cases, reflux does not get worse over time. It either gets better or stays the same. Talk with your child’s doctor to learn more about your child’s reflux.

Rev. 1/2019. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.