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 who have PKD have a 50% chance of getting the disease.
What are the symptoms of PKD ?
The most common symptom of PKD is high blood pressure. Other symptoms are:
- Pain in the back and side
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent kidney infections
PKD is often diagnosed when a person begins to have symptoms, but not all patients will have all of these symptoms.
How is PKD diagnosed ?
PKD is often diagnosed when a person begins to have the symptoms listed above, but not all people who have PKD will have all of these symptoms.
If you have symptoms of PKD or if you are at risk for the disease, your doctor may want you to have an ultrasound exam. An ultrasound exam uses sound waves to create a picture of your organs and can detect cysts on the kidneys. Your doctor may also order a CT (computerized tomography) scan to look for cysts in the kidney.
Treatments and drugs
- High blood pressure. Controlling high blood pressure may delay the progression of the disease and slow further kidney damage. Combining a low-sodium, low-fat diet that's moderate in protein and calorie content with eliminating smoking, increasing exercise and reducing stress may help control high blood pressure.
However, medications are usually needed to control high blood pressure. Medications called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors may be used to control high blood pressure in people with polycystic kidney disease, though more than one drug may be necessary for good blood pressure control.
- Pain Chronic pain, usually located in your back or your side, is a common symptom of polycystic kidney disease. Often, the pain is mild and you can control it with over-the-counter medications containing acetaminophen. For some people, however, the pain is more severe and constant. In rare cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove cysts if they're large enough to cause pressure and pain.
- Complications of cysts Rarely, when kidney cysts are causing severe pain or obstructing other organs or blood vessels, you may need to undergo surgery to drain the cysts.
- Bladder or kidney infections Prompt treatment of infections with antibiotics is necessary to prevent kidney damage.
- Blood in the urine You'll need to drink lots of fluids as soon as you notice blood in your urine, in order to dilute the urine. Dilution may help prevent obstructive clots from forming in your urinary tract. Bed rest also may help decrease the bleeding.
- Kidney failure If your kidneys lose their ability to remove wastes and extra fluids from your blood, you'll eventually need either dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- Liver cysts Nonsurgical management of liver cysts includes avoidance of hormone replacement therapy. Other options in rare cases include drainage of symptomatic cysts if they're not too numerous, partial removal of the liver or even liver transplantation.
- Aneurysms If you have polycystic kidney disease and a family history of ruptured intracranial aneurysms, your doctor may recommend regular screening for intracranial aneurysms. If an aneurysm is discovered, surgical clipping of the aneurysm to reduce the risk of bleeding may be an option, depending on its size. Nonsurgical treatment of small aneurysms may involve controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol and quitting smoking.
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