Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
is a genetic disorder
characterized by the growth of numerous cysts in the kidneys. The
cysts are filled with fluid. PKD cysts can slowly replace much of
the mass of the kidneys, reducing kidney function and leading to
kidney failure. The kidneys filter wastes from the blood to form
urine. They also regulate amounts of certain vital substances in
When PKD causes kidneys to fail--which usually happens only
after many years--the patient requires dialysis or kidney
transplantation. About one-half of people with the major type of
PKD progress to kidney failure, i.e., end-stage renal disease
PKD can cause cysts in the liver and problems in other organs,
such as the heart and blood vessels in the brain. These
complications help doctors distinguish PKD from the usually
harmless "simple" cysts that often form in the kidneys in later
years of life.
There are three different types of PKD. One of the inherited
forms is domininant, meaning that those who have the gene from
either their mother or father, will have the disease. The other
inherited form, which is recessive, only develops in those
individuals who have copies of the gene from both parents;
otherwise, they carry the gene and may pass it to their children,
but they themselves may not have kidney disease.
Autosomal dominant PKD
is the most common, inherited
form. Symptoms usually develop between the ages of 30 and 40, but
they can begin earlier, even in childhood. About 90 percent of all
PKD cases are autosomal dominant PKD.
Autosomal recessive PKD
is a rare, inherited form.
Symptoms of autosomal recessive PKD begin in the earliest months of
life, even in the womb.
Acquired cystic kidney disease (ACKD)
association with long-term kidney problems, especially in patients
who have kidney failure and who have been on dialysis for a long
time. Therefore it tends to occur in later years of life. It is not
an inherited form of PKD.
Adapted from the Department of
Health and Human Services, 3/00
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a