VUR does not usually hurt or cause symptoms. Some children with VUR are at higher risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), including kidney infections, or bladder problems.

Urinary tract infections

Urine is normally sterile (free of germs), but sometimes bacteria (germs) get into the urine and travel into the urinary system. This causes a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is usually in the bladder (also called cystitis).

  • Babies and young children with a UTI may have fever (temperature over 38°C), be sick (vomit), feel tired or irritable and not feed well.
  • Older children with a UTI may have pain or a stinging/burning feeling when passing urine (dysuria), may need to go to the toilet more often than usual (frequency) or hold on because it is painful to go, or may wet themselves more often than usual.

If you think that your child may have a UTI, contact your doctor. If you cannot reach your doctor straight away, contact 111 or NHS Direct or your local out-of-hours GP service.

Kidney infections

In more severe VUR, urine passes backs into the kidneys. This makes it possible for bacteria to get into the kidney, causing an infection – this type of UTI is called pyelonephritis.

Pyelonephritis is more difficult to treat than cystitis. It may lead to lead to more serious illness, with fever, nausea (feeling sick), vomiting or pain. It may resolve (get better) completely, or may lead to kidney scarring.

More about UTIs, including kidney infections

Bladder problems

Some children have bladder problems, especially if they have severe VUR. If the bladder does not completely empty, this may cause more UTIs.

Reflux nephropathy

The scars found in reflux nephropathy do not hurt. However, some children with reflux nephropathy may have complications.

High blood pressure

Reflux nephropathy may lead to blood pressure that is too high (hypertension). In some children, this causes headaches, vomiting or blurred (fuzzy) vision. Hypertension that lasts a long time can also increase the risk of getting heart disease and stroke in adulthood.


In reflux nephropathy, some of the tiny kidney filters are damaged. This means that the rest of the kidney filters have to filter more blood than usual – this is called hyperfiltration

Over time, these working kidney filters may get damaged and may leak protein into the urine – this is called proteinuria. You cannot usually see the protein but it can be found on a urine test. If your child is found to have proteinuria, he or she will need regular urine tests.

Kidney problems

If there is reflux nephropathy in both kidneys (bilateral reflux nephropathy), this may lead to long-term kidney problems. Your child will have regular blood tests to check how well his or her kidneys are working.