is polycystic kidney disease?
kidney disease (PKD) is an
inherited kidney disorder. It causes fluid-filled cysts to form in the kidneys.
PKD may impair kidney function and eventually cause kidney failure.
PKD is the fourth
leading cause of kidney failure. People with PKD may also develop cysts in the
liver and other complications.
are the symptoms of polycystic kidney disease?
live with PKD for years without experiencing symptoms associated with the
disease. Cysts typically grow 0.5 inches or larger before a person starts noticing
symptoms. Initial symptoms associated with PKD can include:
- pain or tenderness in the abdomen
- blood in the urine
- frequent urination
- pain in the sides
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- kidney stones
- pain or heaviness in the back
- skin that bruises easily
- pale skin color
- joint pain
- nail abnormalities
autosomal recessive PKD may have symptoms that include:
- high blood pressure
- frequent urination
children may resemble other disorders. It is important to get medical attention
for a child experiencing any of symptoms listed above.
What causes polycystic kidney disease?
PKD is generally inherited. Less
commonly, it develops in people who have other serious kidney problems. There
are three types of PKD.
Autosomal dominant (ADPKD) is
sometimes called adult PKD, and accounts for about 90 percent of cases. Someone who has a parent with PKD has a 50 percent chance of developing this condition.
Symptoms usually develop later in
life, between the ages of 30 and 40. However, some people begin to experience symptoms
Autosomal recessive PKD (ARPKD)
is much less common than ADPKD. It is also inherited, but both parents must
carry the gene for the disease.
People who are carriers of ARPKD
will not have symptoms if they have only one gene. If they inherit two genes,
one from each parent, they will have ARPKD.
There are four types of ARPKD:
- perinatal form is present at birth
- neonatal form occurs within the first month
- infantile form occurs when the child is 3 to 12
- juvenile form occurs after the child is 1
Acquired cystic kidney disease
Acquired cystic kidney disease (ACKD)
is not inherited and it usually occurs later in life.
It usually develops in people who
already have other kidney problems. And it is more common in those who have
kidney failure or are on dialysis.
How is polycystic kidney disease diagnosed?
Because ADPKD and ARPKD are
inherited, your doctor will review your family history. They may initially
order a complete blood count to look for anemia or signs of infection and a
urinalysis to look for blood, bacteria, or protein in your urine.
all three types of PKD, your doctor may use imaging tests to look for cysts of
the kidney, liver, and other organs. Imaging tests used to diagnose PKD
- abdominal ultrasound: a non-invasive
test that uses sound waves to look at your kidneys for cysts
- abdominal CT scan: can detect
smaller cysts in the kidneys
- abdominal MRI scan: uses strong
magnets to image your body to visualize kidney structure and look for cysts
- intravenous pyelogram: uses a dye to
make your blood vessels show up more clearly on an X-ray
are the complications of polycystic kidney disease?
In addition to the
symptoms generally experienced with PKD, as cysts on the kidneys grow larger
there may be complications.
Some of these
complications can include:
areas in the walls of arteries, known as aortic or brain aneurysms
on and in the liver
in the pancreas and testicles
or pockets in the wall of the colon, or diverticula
disease mitral valve prolapse
or insufficient red blood cells
or bursting of cysts
What is the treatment for polycystic kidney
The goal of
PKD treatment is to manage symptoms and avoid complications. Controlling high blood
pressure is the most important part of treatment.
Some of the treatment
options may include:
- pain medication, except Ibuprofen,
which is not recommended as it may worsen kidney disease
- blood pressure medication
- antibiotics to treat UTIs
- a low sodium diet
- diuretics to help remove excess
fluid from the body
- surgery to drain cysts and help
PKD that causes renal failure, dialysis and kidney transplant may be necessary. One
or both of the kidneys may need to be removed.
Coping and support for polycystic kidney disease
of PKD may mean changes and considerations for you and your family. You may
experience a range of emotions when you receive a PKD diagnosis and as you
adjust to living with the condition. Reaching out to a support network of
family and friends can be helpful.
You may also wish
to reach out to a dietitian, who can recommend dietary steps to help you keep
blood pressure low and reduce the work required of the kidneys, which must
filter and balance electrolytes and sodium levels.
several organizations that provide support and information for those living
can also talk to your nephrologist or local dialysis clinic to find support
groups in your area. You don’t have to be on dialysis in order to access these
you aren’t ready or don’t have the time to attend a support group, each of
these organizations have online resources and forums available.
Because polycystic kidney disease can be an
inherited condition, your doctor may recommend seeing a genetic counselor. They
can help you figure out a map of your family’s medical history with respect to
Genetic counseling may be an option that can
help you weigh important decisions, such as the likelihood your child could
Kidney failure and
One of the most serious
complications of polycystic kidney disease is kidney failure. This is when the
kidneys are no longer able to filter waste products, maintain fluid balance,
and maintain blood pressure on their own. When this occurs, your doctor will
discuss options with you that may include a kidney transplant or dialysis
treatments to act as artificial kidneys.
If your doctor does place you on
a kidney transplant list, there are several factors that determine your
placement. These include your overall health, expected survival, and time you
have been on dialysis. It’s also possible that a friend or relative could
donate a kidney to you. Because people can live with only one kidney with
relatively few complications, this can be an option for families who have a
The decision to undergo a kidney
transplant or donate a kidney to a person with kidney disease can be a
difficult one. Speaking to your nephrologist can help you weigh your options.
You can also ask what medications and treatments can help you live as well as
possible in the meantime. According to the University of Iowa, the average kidney transplant will allow
kidney function from 10 to 12 years.
What is the outlook for people with polycystic
people, PKD slowly gets worse over time. It is estimated that 50 percent of
people with PKD will experience kidney failure by age 60. This number increases
to 60 percent by age 70. Because the kidneys are such important organs, their
failure may start to affect other organs, such as the liver.
care can help you manage PKD symptoms for years. If you don’t have other
medical problems, you may be a good candidate for a kidney transplant.
Also, you may
consider speaking with a genetic counselor if you have a family history of PKD
and are planning to have children.