Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic Kidney Disease

(PKD; Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease; ADPKD; Adult Polycystic Disease; Polycystic Kidney Disease Type 2)


Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is when many fluid-filled cysts form in the kidneys. The kidneys get bigger as the cysts grow inside them. This can cause kidney damage and other problems.

Autosomal dominant PKD happens in adults and is the most common type. Autosomal recessive PKD is a type found in newborns.

Anatomy of the Kidney

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PKD is caused by faulty gene. Other people have it due to changes in a certain gene.

Risk Factors

The risk of this problem is higher in people who have a parent with PKD.


Some people have symptoms at birth while others do not have problems until later in life. Symptoms also differ from person to person.

Problems may be:

  • Pain in the back or side
  • Blood in the urine
  • Belly pain
  • Frequent urination


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood and urine tests will be done to check kidney function.

Images may be taken of the kidneys. This can be done with:


There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent health problems. Options are:

  • Medicines to:
    • Lower high blood pressure and cholesterol
    • Ease pain
    • Treat cysts that are bleeding
  • Dietary changes, such as drinking plenty of fluids and a low sodium diet
  • Dialysis to remove waste from the blood

Some people may need surgery to:

  • Drain or remove cysts to ease pain, bleeding, or a blockage
  • Remove one or both kidneys— nephrectomy
  • Replace a damaged kidney — kidney transplant


There is no known way to prevent PKD.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
PKD Foundation


The Kidney Foundation of Canada


Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/autosomal-dominant-polycystic-kidney-disease-adpkd. Accessed December 29, 2020.
Chebib F, Perrone R , et al. A practical guide for treatment of rapidly progressive ADPKD with tolvaptan. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2018 Oct;29(10):2458-2470.
Kidney (renal) and cystic disease. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/k/kidney-(renal)-dysplasia-and-cystic-disease. Accessed December 29, 2020.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
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Accessed December 29, 2020.
What is PKD? PKD Foundation website. Available at: https://pkdcure.org/what-is-pkd. Accessed December 29, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 12/29/2020

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