Learn About Polycystic Kidney Disease

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.

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What are the alternative names for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

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

What are the causes of 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 of 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
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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 one or both kidneys may be needed. Treatments for end-stage kidney disease may include dialysis or a kidney transplant.

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What are the support groups for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

More information and support for people with polycystic kidney disease and their families can be found at a kidney disease support group.

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 of 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?

Contact 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.

Kidney and liver cysts - CT scan
Liver and spleen cysts - CT scan
What are the latest Polycystic Kidney Disease Clinical Trials?
HYDROchlorothiazide to PROTECT Polycystic Kidney Disease Patients and Improve Their Quality of Life

Summary: Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is characterized by progressive formation of renal cysts which ultimately lead to a loss of renal function. Tolvaptan (a V2R antagonist) is currently the only effective treatment for preserving renal function in ADPKD. However, side-effects such as polyuria limit its tolerability and thereby the therapeutic potential. This study will test whethe...

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NOX4, Mitochondria and Related Biomarkers in Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease

Summary: To determine the value of NOX4, markers of mitochondria injury and function, and oxidative stress as real-time biomarkers to assess disease severity in patients with early autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD).

What are the Latest Advances for Polycystic Kidney Disease?
Bilateral laparoscopic nephrectomy for polycystic kidney disease.
Tolvaptan in ADPKD patients at the University of Padova Nephrology Unit: impact on quality of life, efficacy and safety.
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Pancreatic extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy for a patient concurrent with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease: a case report.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: July 27, 2021
Published By: Walead Latif, MD, Nephrologist and Clinical Associate Professor, Rutgers Medical School, Newark, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

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.