Kidneys Home > Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease is a condition in which fluid-filled cysts grow in the kidneys, eventually replacing much of the kidneys' mass. This can potentially lead to kidney failure. Symptoms of the disease include pain in the back and sides, blood in the urine, kidney stones, and high blood pressure. Treatment options can involve medication, surgery, dialysis, and kidney transplantation.

What Is Polycystic Kidney Disease?

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic condition characterized by the growth of numerous fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys. These cysts may slowly replace much of the mass of the kidneys -- reducing kidney function and potentially leading to kidney failure.

Understanding the Kidneys

The kidneys are two organs, each about the size of a fist, located toward the back of a person's upper abdomen (stomach). The kidneys filter wastes from the blood to form urine. They also regulate amounts of certain vital substances in the body.
When a person has polycystic kidney disease, clusters of fluid-filled sacs (cysts) develop in the kidneys and interfere with their ability to filter waste products from the blood. The growth of cysts causes the kidneys to become enlarged and can lead to kidney failure. Cysts may also develop in other organs, particularly the liver, spleen, and pancreas. Polycystic kidney disease symptoms occur because of these cysts and the damage they cause.

Types of Polycystic Kidney Disease

There are three types of polycystic kidney disease:
Both autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive are inherited polycystic kidney disease types; acquired cystic kidney disease is not inherited, but is associated with long-term kidney problems, dialysis, and old age.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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