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Understanding polycystic kidney disease

People with polycystic kidney disease should get regular medical care to avoid serious complications.

About 600,000 Americans have polycystic kidney disease (PKD), according to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). It is almost always inherited and can be fatal.

PKD is divided into two major groups. Autosomal dominant PKD, sometimes called adult PKD, is the most common form. Symptoms usually appear between ages 30 and 40, according to the NKF. A rare form of PKD, called autosomal recessive, affects 1 in 20,000 children.

PKD always affects both kidneys. It can also affect other organs, such as the liver, pancreas, heart, intestines and brain.

Affected organs develop fluid-filled cysts. These cysts multiply and grow and may enlarge the organs or interfere with their function.

Kidney failure is one of the most common and serious effects of the disease. About half of people with PKD experience kidney failure by age 60.

Complications associated with PKD include high blood pressure, kidney failure, bladder and kidney infections, kidney bleeding, and aneurysms. Regular medical attention helps prevent and control these complications.

Studies are underway on the disease's many complications, genetic basis and progression.

More information on PKD is available through the National Kidney Foundation, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the PKD Foundation.

Reviewed 7/6/2022

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