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What Is the Treatment for Polycystic Kidney Disease?

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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Polycystic kidney (PKD) is a life-threatening disease affecting more than 12 million people worldwide. This genetic disease occurs in men and women equally and can be found in all races. There are two primary types of PKD: adult onset and child onset. While there is no cure for PKD, treatment is aimed at maintaining kidney health for as long as possible. For both children and adults, treatment is usually focused on controlling the problems caused by the disease, like high blood pressure and kidney and bladder infections; controlling cyst size with surgery; and performing dialysis or a kidney transplant if the organ fails.

Symptoms of PKD include blood in the urine, back pain, elevated blood pressure, and a swollen abdomen. Frequent kidney and bladder infections may be seen. Treatment for polycystic kidney disease tries to control and alleviate individual symptoms for a healthier overall lifestyle.

High blood pressure is the most easily recognized sign of PKD. It is sometimes the first indicator that the disease is present, and is detected during a routine physical examination. Prescription medication for high blood pressure is the typical treatment for this symptom. In addition to the medication, patients are often advised to make lifestyle changes regarding diet, weight, and exercise to help control their blood pressure.

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Approximately 25 percent of people with PKD develop a heart murmur or floppy heart valve. Symptoms include chest pain and a feeling of fluttering or pounding in the chest. These symptoms typically disappear on their own but should be monitored for possible complications. Like high blood pressure, the floppy heart valve is often the first indicator that PKD is present.

Treatment for polycystic kidney disease is usually effective at slowing the disease's progress and maintaining kidney health. Patients are advised to seek prompt medical care for all kidney and bladder infections. They are advised to get bed rest and drink lots of fluids at the first sign of blood in the urine.

While exercise is an important part of the treatment for polycystic kidney disease, contact sports are discouraged. Any activity that can potentially lead to kidney trauma or injury should be avoided. Women with PKD can become pregnant, but should be monitored as a high-risk pregnancy until they deliver.

Occasionally, the fluid-filled cysts that are the hallmark of PKD will interfere with normal kidney, liver, or other organ function. In such cases, surgery to drain the cysts can alleviate the problem. Liver cysts are also managed by avoiding any hormone replacement therapy.

Approximately 60 percent of those with PKD will experience kidney failure by their sixth decade of life. Dialysis and kidney transplants are treatment options for kidney failure. There is no cure for PKD, but treatment for polycystic kidney disease, including leading a healthy lifestyle and following medical protocol, can slow disease progression.

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