Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)


As PKD progresses, the size and number of the kidney cysts may increase and begin to affect how your kidneys function.

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PKD is the most common inherited kidney disorder, but it can occur spontaneously in people with no family history of PKD. Many with PKD live for a few decades without symptoms, which often don't arise until a person is 30 to 60 years old. Over time, a polycystic kidney is often enlarged. High blood pressure is common and kidney failure can also occur.

Need to know

The most common symptom is pain in the back or sides, or between the ribs and hips. The pain may be mild or severe, temporary or persistent. People with PKD may also experience complications such as: - high blood pressure (hypertension) - persistent or recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) - blood in the urine (haematuria) - cysts on the liver (polycystic liver disease) or pancreas - abnormal heart valves - kidney stones - aneurysms (bulges in the walls of blood vessels) in the brain, which can bleed and cause a stroke - diverticulosis (small pouches that bulge outward through the colon) - loss of kidney function, also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD)
As PKD is inherited, your consultant may ask about your family's medical history, in addition to your symptoms. Tests recommended to aid diagnosis may include: - A physical examination to check for enlarged kidneys and hypertension. - A blood test to measure your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) ‒ how many millilitres of waste your kidneys can filter in a minute. - Urine tests to check for blood or protein in your urine. - An ultrasound where findings are based on age-dependent criteria. For example, the presence of at least three cysts in each kidney by age 30 in someone with a family history of the disease can confirm a PKD diagnosis.
There is no cure for PKD but treatment can ease symptoms, delay dialysis and prolong life. Your consultant will discuss your treatment options with you and help to determine the best approach for you. These may include: - Tolvaptan, which slows the progression of cyst development and helps protect renal function. In most cases this is likely to significantly delay the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. - Paracetamol, codeine or tramadol for pain relief. - Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) or ureteroscopy to remove kidney stones. - Dialysis as an option for kidney failure. A machine is used to replicate some functions of your kidney.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.