Causes and Risk Factors for VUR

Undetermined genetic risk factors may affect the development of VUR. About 34 percent of patients who have the condition have siblings who are also affected. Siblings of patients with VUR are routinely tested for the condition, even when symptoms are not present.

The most common cause for primary reflux in children is an abnormality in the section of the ureter that enters the bladder (called the intravesical ureter). The intravesical ureter may not be long enough to enable the ureter to close sufficiently to prevent urine reflux, or the ureter may be inserted abnormally into the bladder. This condition often resolves as the child grows and the ureter lengthens.

Other causes of primary reflux include abnormalities in detrusor muscle tissue of the bladder, abnormalities in the location of the urethral opening (e.g., hypospadias), and abnormalities in the shape of the urethral opening.

Secondary reflux is often caused by urinary tract infection (e.g., cystitis) that results in inflammation and swelling of the ureter. UTI may cause vesicoureteral reflux or vesicoureteral reflux may promote the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract, causing UTI.

Secondary reflux may also be caused by urinary tract abnormalities (e.g., narrowing, or stricture, of the ureter; duplicated ureters; ureterocele) and obstructions (e.g., UPJ obstruction, urinary stones, tumor).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 09 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2015