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What Is Chyluria?

Chyluria is when there is chyle in the pee. Chyle is a milky fluid made in the bowels (intestines) during digestion.

Depending the cause, doctors can treat chyluria (kye-LURE-ee-uh) and often cure it.

What Happens in Chyluria?

Chyle (KYE-ul) is made of lymph and tiny fat droplets. Lymph (LIMF) is a fluid that carries fats and proteins, helps fight germs, and keeps the body's fluid levels normal.

Lymph vessels take chyle to the bloodstream. From there, the blood carries lymph and fats where they are needed.

When the lymphatic system is damaged or doesn't work as it should, this normal flow can't happen. The chyle can't get into the blood, and instead leaks into other places. In chyluria, it leaks into the kidneys or another part of the urinary tract, and then into pee (urine).

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Chyluria?

Chyluria makes a child's pee look cloudy or milky. It also can cause:

  • the need to pee a lot
  • pain when peeing
  • blood in the pee (hematuria)
  • pain in the lower back on one side
  • weight loss
  • growth and weight problems
  • tiredness

What Causes Chyluria?

Chyluria happens when there is a problem with the lymphatic system. This may happen in children with: 

  • cancer or other tumor in the belly
  • swelling or an unusual growth in the lymphatic system (lymphangitis, lymphangioma)
  • a problem that was treated with surgery, such as:
    • partial or complete removal of a kidney
    • kidney transplant
    • surgery for kidney cancer or another cancer in the belly

Children who live in or have traveled to Africa, Asia, or South America can get chyluria from a parasite. A parasite is a tiny animal such as a tapeworm that lives in or on humans.

How Is Chyluria Diagnosed?

To diagnose chyluria, doctors ask questions about symptoms, do an exam, and test the child's pee and blood.

They also order tests to find out how the chyle is getting into the urinary system, such as:

  • an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, lymphangiogram, or other imaging study
  • minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy) to look inside the belly

How Is Chyluria Treated?

Treatment for chyluria depends on what's causing it. It may include:

  • helping the body make less chyle with medicine, a low-fat diet, or IV nutrition (total parenteral nutrition, or TPN)
  • treatment by an interventional radiologist to fix the lymph vessel

How Can Parents Help?

If your child has chyluria, be sure to:

  • Take your child to all doctor's visits.
  • Make sure your child takes any prescribed medicines.
  • Help your child with any prescribed diet changes.

Reviewed by: Deborah A. Rabinowitz, MD
Date Reviewed: Oct 9, 2020

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