What is the definition of Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a kidney disorder passed down through families. In this disease, many cysts form in the kidneys, causing them to become enlarged.

What are the alternative names for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Cysts - kidneys; Kidney - polycystic; Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease; ADPKD

What are the causes for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

PKD is passed down through families (inherited). The two inherited forms of PKD are autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive.

People with PKD have many clusters of cysts in the kidneys. What exactly triggers the cysts to form is unknown. 

PKD is associated with the following conditions:

  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Brain aneurysms
  • Cysts in the liver, pancreas, and testes
  • Diverticula of the colon

As many as half of people with PKD have cysts in the liver.

What are the symptoms for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Symptoms of PKD may include any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Blood in the urine
  • Excessive urination at night
  • Flank pain on one or both sides
  • Drowsiness
  • Joint pain
  • Nail abnormalities

What are the current treatments for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment may include:

  • Blood pressure medicines
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Low-salt diet

Any urinary tract infection should be treated quickly with antibiotics.

Cysts that are painful, infected, bleeding, or causing a blockage may need to be drained. There are usually too many cysts to make it practical to remove each cyst.

Surgery to remove 1 or both kidneys may be needed. Treatments for end-stage kidney disease may include dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What are the support groups for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

You can often ease the stress of an illness by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

The disease gets worse slowly. Eventually, it may lead to end-stage kidney failure. It is also associated with liver disease, including infection of liver cysts.

Treatment may relieve symptoms for many years.

People with PKD who don't have other diseases may be good candidates for a kidney transplant.

What are the possible complications for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Health problems that may result from PKD include:

  • Anemia
  • Bleeding or rupture of cysts
  • Long-term (chronic) kidney disease
  • End-stage kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Infection of liver cysts
  • Kidney stones
  • Liver failure (mild to severe)
  • Repeated urinary tract infections

When should I contact a medical professional for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of PKD
  • You have a family history of PKD or related disorders and you are planning to have children (you may want to have genetic counseling)

How do I prevent Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Currently, no treatment can prevent the cysts from forming or enlarging.



Arnaout MA. Cystic kidney diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 118.

Torres VE, Harris PC. Cystic diseases of the kidney. In: Yu ASL, Chertow GM, Luyckx VA, Marsden PA, Skorecki K, Taal MW, eds. Brenner and Rector's The Kidney. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 45.

  • Condition: Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD)
  • Journal: Clinical journal of the American Society of Nephrology : CJASN
  • Treatment Used: Tolvaptan
  • Number of Patients: 1803
  • Published —
This study evaluated the safety of long-term tolvaptan in later-stage autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (formation of multiple cysts in the kidneys; ADPKD).
  • Condition: Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease
  • Journal: Urologiia (Moscow, Russia : 1999)
  • Treatment Used: Simultaneous Laparoscopic Bilateral Nephrectomy
  • Number of Patients: 6
  • Published —
The study researched the use of simultaneous laparoscopic bilateral nephrectomy as preparation for kidney transplantation in patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.