Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

What is polycystic kidney disease?

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited disease that affects the kidneys. Sacs of fluid (called cysts) grow in the kidneys. If too many cysts grow or if they get too big, the kidneys become damaged. The cysts may also cause pain or may get infected.
PKD is the most common inherited disease in the United States. Children of parents with PKD have a 50% chance of getting the disease.

How will PKD affect me?

Most people with PKD can lead a normal life. In many people, the disease is mild and causes only minor problems. PKD is more severe in some patients and can cause kidney failure. About 60% of patients develop high blood pressure, which can be treated with blood pressure medicine. About 50% of patients with PKD have kidney failure by age 60. Dialysis (blood filtering) and kidney transplants are both effective treatments for kidney failure. PKD is generally worse in men, blacks and patients with sickle cell disease. There is also a childhood form of PKD which is usually more severe than the type that occurs in adults.

What other organs can be hurt by PKD?

People with PKD may also have cysts in the liver, but these cysts seldom cause problems. Heart valve problems sometimes occur. Other organs that may be affected include the brain, intestines, pancreas, ovaries and spleen. If PKD affects the brain, it can cause an aneurysm (a bulging blood vessel that can rupture).

What are the symptoms of PKD?

The most common symptom of PKD is high blood pressure. Other symptoms are:
Not all patients will have all of these symptoms.

How is PKD diagnosed?

PKD is often diagnosed when a person begins to have symptoms. Symptoms most often occur in middle age.
If you have symptoms of PKD or if you are at risk of the disease, your doctor may want you to have an ultrasound exam to look at your kidneys. An ultrasound exam provides a picture of your organs by passing sound waves through your body. An ultrasound exam can detect cysts in your kidneys. Your doctor may order an x-ray exam called CT (computerized tomography) to look for cysts in the kidney.

Who should be checked for PKD?

If one of your parents has PKD, you should consider having an ultrasound exam of your kidneys. If you have PKD and you also have a relative who has had a brain aneurysm, your doctor may suggest that you have a CT or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of your brain to check for an aneurysm. (MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce a picture of your brain.) If you are at high risk of an aneurysm, your doctor may suggest that you have CT or MRI of the brain every 5 years to detect an aneurysm before it causes problems.

Is there treatment for PKD?

No treatment is available for the cysts that occur due to PKD. If the cysts are causing symptoms, these symptoms can be treated so you will be more comfortable.

Can PKD be diagnosed in unborn babies?

Yes. PKD can be diagnosed in unborn babies using a test called amniocentesis (analysis of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby) or a test called chorionic villus sampling (examination of a small piece of the placenta). If you have PKD and you're pregnant, talk with your doctor about these procedures.


PKD-CURE: www.pkdcure.org