Polycystic Kidney Disease

What is polycystic kidney disease?

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is the number four cause of kidney failure in Americans, and an estimated 600,000 people in the United States currently have it. About half of the people diagnosed with PKD will experience end stage renal disease (ESRD) and will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. So what is PKD all about?

Typically, a kidney is about the size of a closed fist. But for those who inherit PKD, cysts that are filled with fluid form in the kidneys and can change their size, interfering with normal kidney function.

PKD is commonly believed to equally affect men and women of all races. However, some studies have shown that the disease may occur more often in Caucasians than in African-Americans and in females more often than males.

How does someone get polycystic kidney disease?

Polycystic kidney disease is hereditary and there are two forms of the disease that are passed down from a parent:

  • Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is by far the most common form of PKD (90 percent of all cases) and runs in families. It is passed from parent to child, and the odds are 50/50 of a child inheriting it from an affected mother or father. About 10 percent of people with ADPKD have not inherited the disease from a parent, but have a gene that mutated, causing the disease.
  • Autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD) is rare and strikes infants, sometimes even before birth. It is also known as “infantile PKD” and affects about one out of every 10,000 people in the U.S. Both parents must be “carriers” of the ARPKD gene to pass it to a child, and each of their children has a one in four chance of getting the disease.

How can a doctor detect polycystic kidney disease?

Because many people with PKD have no signs or symptoms, some people can live their entire life not knowing they have the disease. In these cases, routine blood and urine tests may not even show any signs of PKD.

Ultrasound is most commonly used to detect initial-stage ADPKD, and it can reveal cysts in a fetus’s kidneys, while it is still in the womb when detecting ARPKD (ultrasound imaging has no side effects and is safe for all patients). Sound waves pass harmlessly through the kidneys and create a picture for the doctor to examine. The doctor will be able to see the cysts if they are large enough.

What is being done to treat polycystic kidney disease?

By identifying the processes that trigger the formation of kidney cysts, and experimenting with drugs that can inhibit or block them, there is hope that research will lead to improvements in treating PKD and a cure.

To discuss more about PKD and how it affects you and your family, find a kidney doctor in your area today.

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