Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is the fourth leading cause of kidney failure, affecting approximately 600,000 Americans. It occurs equally in both men and women and affects all races. Polycystic kidney disease (also called PKD) causes numerous fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. Too many cysts or cysts that grow too large can damage the kidneys by slowly replacing functioning kidney tissue. This reduces kidney function and eventually leads to kidney failure.

What are the symptoms of PKD?

The first noticeable signs and symptoms may include:

  • Back or side pain
  • An increase in the size of the abdomen
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent bladder or kidney infections
  • High blood pressure

How is PKD diagnosed?

Ultrasound is one of the most reliable, inexpensive and non-invasive ways to diagnose PKD. A CT scans (computed tomography scan) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may also be used to detect smaller cysts that cannot be found by an ultrasound. MRI is used to measure and monitor volume and growth of kidneys and cysts.

How is PKD treated?

There is no cure for PKD. About 50 percent of people with PKD will have kidney failure by age 60, and about 60 percent will have kidney failure by age 70. Many treatments can be done to help prevent or slow down the loss of kidney function in people with PKD and control symptoms including:

  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Treating bladder or kidney infections promptly with antibiotics
  • Staying hydrated
  • Taking in lots of fluids when blood is noticed in your urine
  • Using the proper pain medications as advised by your doctor
  • Living a healthy lifestyle by controlling salt intake, exercising, managing your weight and stopping smoking

How is PKD prevented?

PKD is an inherited disorder that is passed genetically and cannot be prevented. No specific diet is known to prevent cysts from developing in patients with PKD, but reducing salt intake, following a diet low in fat and moderate in calories and maintaining a regular exercise regimen reduces other causes harmful to the kidney.