Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder that causes cysts to grow in the kidneys, where they can disrupt functioning. Health complications include high blood pressure and kidney failure. Most people with PKD will eventually need dialysis or a kidney transplant. PKD affects about 500,000 people in the U.S.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) causes cysts (fluid-filled growths) to develop in the kidneys. PKD is a genetic disorder, meaning you have to have a mutated (changed) gene to get the disorder.
PKD isn’t the same as simple kidney cysts, which are usually harmless. PKD is a serious type of chronic kidney disease. The cysts can enlarge the kidneys and prevent them from filtering waste out of the blood. PKD can lead to kidney failure.
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There are two types of polycystic kidney disease:
About 500,000 people in the U.S. have PKD. Approximately 2% of all kidney failure cases are the result of PKD.
Genetic mutations cause polycystic kidney disease. In most cases, parents pass the disorder to their children. So, you inherit PKD. But sometimes genes mutate or change at random. People of all ages, races and ethnicities can have PKD. It occurs equally in women and men.
Symptoms of ADPKD include:
Signs that a fetus or newborn may have ADPKD include:
No. This disease is often clinically silent, with approximately one-half of cases being diagnosed during the person's lifetime.
PKD can cause serious health complications for adults and babies.
Adults may develop:
Babies may have:
A nephrologist (healthcare provider specializing in kidney disorders) diagnoses PKD. They may order the following imaging exams to check your kidneys:
A healthcare provider may also recommend genetic testing. A blood or saliva test can check for the mutated genes that cause PKD.
The most common treatments for PKD include:
Polycystic kidney disease isn’t preventable. But you may be able to slow the disease or prevent kidney failure by practicing a healthy lifestyle.
People with ADPKD that’s managed can lead full lives. About half of people with ADKPD will need dialysis or a kidney transplant due to kidney failure by age 70.
The outlook for children with ARPKD isn’t as positive. About one-third of all infants born with ARPKD don’t survive. Babies who do survive will likely need medical treatment the rest of their lives.
Stay healthy and prevent complications by:
Contact a healthcare provider right away if you have PKD and are:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is genetic and causes cysts to form in the kidneys. The cysts may enlarge the kidneys and disrupt kidney function. Most people with PKD are adults. But in rare cases, babies can have a dangerous form of PKD. Treatment reduces symptoms and helps the kidneys work better. Most people with PKD will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/03/2021.
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