Polycystic Kidney Disease

1 What is Polycystic Kidney Disease?

An inherited disorder when clusters of cysts develop on your kidney is called polycystic kidney disease (PKD). These vary in sizes and they are noncancerous around sacs that have water-like fluids that can grow very large. It can also cause cysts in your liver and elsewhere in your body that can lead to serious complications.

High blood pressure and kidney failure are the two most common complication of PKD. Some complications can be prevented and PKD varies in its severity.

To reduce damage to your kidneys from complications such as high blood pressure, there are medical treatments and life changes that could help.

2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) are:

Consult your doctor if you have signs and symptoms of this disease so your doctor will diagnose you and you’ll know what causes them. If PKD runs in your family, tell your doctor so he can give you advice on pros and cons of screening for this disease.

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3 Causes

The cause of PKD is abnormal genes which mean it runs in families. Sometimes it can be a genetic mutation but very rare.

The two types of polycystic kidney disease caused by different genetic flaws include:

  • Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD): Also known adult polycystic kidney disease before and can develop between the ages of 30 and 40, but children can develop this too. Each child has a 50 percent chance of getting this disease if one of his/her parents has ADPKD because only one parent needs to have this disease in order to pass it along to the children;
  • Autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD): Sometimes the symptoms will be visible at birth or will not appear until late childhood or during adolescence. A child has a 25 percent chance of getting this disease if both parents carry a gene for this disorder because both parents must have abnormal genes to pass it along their children. There is one gene associated with ARPKD and two genes associated with ADPKD according to researchers. Sometimes a person with ADPKD has no family history of the disease but possibly have it without knowing it.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Consult your doctor if you have the symptoms of polycystic kidney disease and he may refer you to a nephrologist who specializes in kidney health to receive a diagnosis. Ask a family member or a close friend to accompany you with your visit to the doctor. Bring a list of all the symptoms that you are experiencing and also the list of all the medications and supplements you are taking.

Some of the questions that you can ask your doctor include:

  • What is causing my symptoms?
  • What are the other possible causes?
  • What tests do I need? What treatments are available?
  • What are the side effects of these treatments?
  • Do I have to follow any restrictions?
  • What is the appropriate level of my blood pressure?
  • What would be the possible complications?
  • What websites can you recommend that provides information to this disease?

Your doctor will also ask you a number of questions such as:

  • When did you begin to experience symptoms?
  • Are they occasional or continuous?
  • Do any of your family members have a PKD?
  • Have your kidney function been measured?

After your physical exam your doctor will conduct tests such as:

  • Ultrasound – to look the images of your kidneys by putting a transducer in your body that can emits inaudible sound waves,
  • Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan – to generate cross-sectional views of your kidneys by magnetic fields and radio waves,
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan – to see cross-sectional images of your kidneys by the x-ray beams that is projected through your body.

5 Treatment

You can treat polycystic kidney disease by treating the signs and symptoms such as:

  • high blood pressure: you need to control your high blood pressure to prevent the progression of the disease and to prevent kidney failure. Your diet should be low-fat and low-sodium that has moderate calories and proteins. Avoid smoking and exercise regularly. Your doctor can also prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to control high blood pressure;
  • pain: you can reduce the pain in your side or back by drinking over the counter medicines that has acetaminophen. Surgery may be recommended by your doctor if the cysts are large and the pain is so severe;
  • complications of cysts: surgery to drain the cysts;
  • blood in the urine: drink lots of fluids to prevent this and bed rests;
  • kidney or bladder infection: antibiotics to treat these to prevent kidney damage;
  • liver cysts: by avoiding hormone therapy and surgery or liver transplant;
  • aneurysms: regular screening will be recommended to reduce the risk of bleeding, and by controlling your high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.

6 Prevention

Keep your kidneys healthy to prevent complications of polycystic kidney disease. Consult a genetic counselor if you wanted to have kids but you have PKD. 

One of ways to protect your kidneys is controlling your blood pressure. 

Some of the following are considered to manage your blood pressure:

  • quit smoking; maintain a healthy weight,
  • take your blood pressure medications as directed,
  • exercise regularly to reduce stress,
  • eat a low-sodium, low-fat diet such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the homeopathic remedies that you can take include:

  • Aconite – for pain in the loins,
  • Apis mellifica – for pain in the back and if you have blood in urine,
  • Apocynum – for scanty urine,
  • Arsenicum – when there is blood in urine,
  • Aurum muriaticum – for headache and irritability,
  • Belladona – for the inflammation of the kidneys,
  • Cantharis – when there is blood in the urine,
  • Terebinth – for the pain in the back and blood in urine.

These remedies should be taken with professional advice.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

Having a PKD may be hard for you. You can seek support and advice from your family and friends, you can also ask help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, clergy member or counselor.

You can also look for a support group in your area with people who are dealing with the same kind of disease so they can understand you and give advice.

9 Risks and Complications

Some of the complications that are related to polycystic kidney disease (PKD) are:

  • high blood pressure – this can damage your kidney if left untreated and can lead to stroke or heart disease,
  • loss of kidney function – you can have kidney failure by the age of 60 and can cause uremia that can lead to renal or end stage kidney failure,
  • pregnancy complications – pregnant women may develop preeclampsia,
  • growth of cysts in the liver – women often develop larger cysts than men because of female hormones,
  • heart valve abnormalities – 1 out of 4 adults with PKD may develop mitral valve prolapsed that allows blood to leak backwards,
  • colon problems – such as weakness and sacs in the wall of colon or diverticulosis,
  • chronic pain – can be at the back or side and can be related to kidney stone, malignancy or urinary tract infection,
  • aneurysm – those who are younger than the 50 can have this or if you have a family history of high blood pressure or aneurysm.
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