Polycystic Kidney Disease

What is Polycystic Kidney Disease?

A person with Polycystic Kidney Disease is suffering from a genetic condition that they were born with. This condition causes a person to develop a potentially large number of cysts in their kidneys. Cysts in the kidney are growths that are filled with fluid that develop within the interior of the kidneys.

When a person has polycystic kidney disease, clusters of these cysts can develop. The cysts can vary greatly in size and number. Some fill with a great deal of fluid and grow very large while others remain small. This condition may also cause a person to develop cysts elsewhere in the body as well, but the largest concentration of cysts is usually in the kidneys.

Polycystic kidney disease can cause a disruption in the proper function of the kidneys depending on how large cysts are and how many there are. This disorder is inherited genetically from a person’s parents. An autosomal dominant inheritance pattern is the most common type of polycystic kidney disease. This means that one parent with the genetic mutation passes it on to their child. Autosomal recessive inheritance of polycystic kidney disease occurs when a person inherits the gene mutation from both parents.

What are the Symptoms of Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Symptoms of polycystic kidney disease may not arise until well into childhood or even adulthood. Pain is one sign of this condition, specifically in the lower back or side. Other symptoms can include abdominal swelling, headaches, high blood pressure, and urination issues like blood in the urine or frequent urination. Kidney stones and even kidney failure or brain aneurysms can also occur as a result of polycystic kidney disease.

How is Polycystic Kidney Disease Treated?

Because polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disease, it cannot be cured. However, it can be managed and the symptoms and complications can be dealt with. If the affected person suffers from high blood pressure, it can be managed with diet as well as prescription blood pressure medications. UTIs and other infections can be treated with antibiotics. If pain is severe or a person’s cysts become obstructive, surgery could be recommended to remove the cysts. Aneurysms and kidney failure are among the most severe complications of polycystic kidney disease and may also require surgery up to and including a kidney transplant.

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Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
August 29, 2017
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