What Are the Causes of Adult Polycystic Kidney Disease?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 January 2020
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There are two forms of polycystic kidney disease (PKD), referred to as autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive PKD. The difference in the two types of PKD is in how the gene is passed from parent to child and when symptoms of PKD begin to appear. Autosomal dominant PKD, also called adult polycystic kidney disease, is caused when a parent with PKD passes the gene to a child. Unlike autosomal recessive PKD, this type usually does not begin to cause symptoms until adulthood. Most people with adult PKD do not experience any symptoms until age 30 or 40.

Adult polycystic kidney disease is one of the rare genetic diseases. It is passed by one parent who carries the gene for the disease. This disease affects the kidneys. Multiple cysts form in the kidneys, which causes the kidneys to enlarge. If left untreated, renal failure is likely.

Many symptoms can occur from adult polycystic kidney disease. Bladder and kidney infections, kidney stones, and high blood pressure commonly occur. More serious symptoms include chronic kidney pain, massive polycystic liver disease, and renal failure. Treating complications as early as possible helps reduce the potential damage these symptoms may cause.


Treatments for adult polycystic kidney disease vary. The disease itself does not have a cure, so treatments are used for the symptoms that occur. Blood pressure problems must be managed with medications, although several medications may be ineffective before the right one is found. Antibiotics are used to treat kidney and bladder infections.

There are also treatments of adult polycystic kidney disease when cysts begin to cause more pronounced problems. If cysts cause blockages, begin to bleed, or start causing more pain, they can be drained. Removal of the cysts in the kidney is not always ideal because there are so many of them.

End-state kidney disease is one of the serious complications that can occur from adult polycystic kidney disease. This disease is the part of polycystic kidney disease that causes renal failure. Treatment for end-stage kidney disease as a result of PKD includes dialysis and transplantation. Some patients require only one of these treatments for one kidney, but many patients will need dialysis or a transplant for both kidneys.

Adult polycystic kidney disease is an inherited disease that requires careful monitoring. Symptoms should be caught as early as possible. The appearance of new cysts and the function of the kidneys are regularly checked for additional complications.


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