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Polycystic Kidney Disease

Usually, cysts are harmless, fluid-filled growths. But sometimes cysts can cause big problems. Especially if they’re in your kidneys.

If you’re diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), these cysts are more serious. If left untreated, they can enlarge your kidneys and keep them from doing their job — filtering waste products out of your blood. PKD is a genetic (inherited) type of chronic kidney disease that can cause other complications, including kidney failure.

Cleveland Clinic’s kidney disease providers will find out why you have polycystic kidney disease. And they’ll work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to help you manage this condition. When your kidneys aren’t working right, it’s easy to worry about your health and your future. Our team is here to listen to your concerns, answer questions and guide you through every step.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Polycystic Kidney Disease Care?

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Trusted experts:

When diagnosing and preventing polycystic kidney disease, our kidney disease experts anticipate complications and treat kidney problems before they become life-threatening. Our experienced nephrologists (kidney specialists) and other healthcare providers work together to make sure you have the most personalized care for this genetic condition. Meet our team.

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Comprehensive care:

As we build a treatment plan for your polycystic kidney disease, our expert team dives deep into testing to better understand your diagnosis. Imaging tests let us take a closer look at your kidneys and nearby organs. We also do genetic testing and counseling, if needed, to help us find the best treatments for your needs.

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Collaborative care:

Cleveland Clinic’s team-based approach to care means that you work with healthcare providers from different specialties. We build your care team based on your unique needs and diagnosis. This team works together to build a treatment plan that matches your needs and keep an eye on your progress.

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Innovation and research:

Our PKD experts are involved in important national research studies related to polycystic kidney disease treatment — like new medications, cell signaling pathways, biological modeling and kidney tissue studies. We also have a PKD registry that lets us track participating patients’ treatments and progress.

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Virtual visits:

Not feeling up to an in-person appointment? Or is your schedule too packed for you to get to our office? You may be able to meet with your providers online using our virtual visits. All you need is an internet connection, smartphone, tablet or computer.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We’re recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

Diagnosing Polycystic Kidney Disease at Cleveland Clinic

Most kidney cysts are harmless. But there are exceptions. Those caused by polycystic kidney disease can damage your kidneys and cause other serious health problems. There are two types of PKD, both of which start from genetic changes (mutations) that are often inherited. Adults tend to have one type — autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). It’s the most common inherited cause of kidney disease. And it usually shows up when you’re between the ages of 30 and 50.

If you have ADPKD, you may have frequent headaches, high blood pressure (hypertension), back or side (flank) pain and blood in your urine (hematuria).

Not everyone with PKD has symptoms. About half the cases are silent. Besides kidney failure, untreated polycystic kidney disease can cause other conditions like colon problems, heart valve disease, kidney stones, liver and pancreatic cysts and brain aneurysms.

That’s why it’s important to pay attention to symptoms that don’t feel right and to work with healthcare providers familiar with diagnosing and treating PKD.

What to expect at your first visit

When you come to your first appointment, your provider will take some time to get to know you. Understanding your story is an important part of how they confirm a diagnosis and plan your care. They’ll ask questions about your symptoms, how long you have been feeling this way and your medical history. They’ll go over your family’s medical history, too, to see if anyone else has had a similar condition.

You’ll also have a physical exam, and your provider will order imaging tests to get a better look at your kidneys. These tests may include:

We may also do genetic counseling and testing if your provider thinks it’s necessary to check for gene mutations that cause PKD.

Meet Our Polycystic Kidney Disease Team

Many different providers from different specialties work together to plan your care. They’ll stay by your side throughout treatment and follow-up. Your care team may include:


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio, Florida and London.

Treating Polycystic Kidney Disease at Cleveland Clinic

Your personalized treatment for polycystic kidney disease depends on your test results, health, symptoms and needs. There are different things your care team may recommend to treat and manage this condition, like:

Blood pressure management

High blood pressure is a common symptom and complication of PKD. It’s important to manage it and keep your blood pressure within a safe range. You may need to take medication to lower your blood pressure and eat a low-salt (sodium) diet. Exercise is another way to help lower and manage high blood pressure.

Pain management

Complications that come with polycystic kidney disease can be painful. You may get kidney stones, infections or ruptured cysts. We’ll recommend the best pain relievers for your needs. You may also have palliative care if the pain from kidney failure affects your well-being and quality of life.


If your kidneys aren’t working correctly, they won’t be able to clean the blood moving through your body. This means you may need help filtering it. Two kinds of dialysis can do this:

  • Hemodialysis: Uses a machine to filter toxins out of your blood.
  • Peritoneal dialysis: Uses the lining (peritoneum) of your abdomen (belly) and a special fluid to filter your blood.

Kidney transplant

If polycystic kidney disease progresses to end-stage renal failure, a kidney transplant may be the answer. Our surgical team will replace the failing kidney with a healthy one from a donor. Once transplanted, the donor kidney will start to filter your blood.

Living With Polycystic Kidney Disease

You can’t prevent autosomal dominant PKD. But with the right treatment, we can help you manage your condition. This can help slow down its progression and even prevent kidney failure. A healthy lifestyle is a key first step. You can lead a full life with PKD by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, not smoking and keeping a weight that’s healthy for you.

You’ll also have regular visits with your care team along with routine testing. This helps us better treat symptoms. We want to make sure your kidneys are working well. If the PKD progresses, we can catch things early and start treatment, like dialysis.

Taking the Next Step

When the cysts in your kidneys start causing headaches, high blood pressure and back pain, it’s time to get things checked out. You might have a serious type of chronic kidney disease called polycystic kidney disease. If you do, you’ll want healthcare providers with experience diagnosing and treating this genetic condition. Our team is here to listen and ease your mind about the future. We’ll build the most personalized treatment plan to help you manage your PKD and slow down kidney damage.

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Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s polycystic kidney disease specialists is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s polycystic kidney disease specialists is easy. We’ll help you get the care you need.

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