Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited (genetic) disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within your kidneys. Cysts are noncancerous round sacs containing water-like fluid. The cysts vary in size and, as they accumulate more fluid, they can grow very large. A kidney cyst is an abnormal sac filled with fluid and PKD cysts can greatly enlarge the kidneys while replacing much of their normal structure, resulting in chronic kidney disease (CKD), which causes reduced kidney function over time. CKD may lead to kidney failure, described as end-stage kidney disease and can only be treated with a kidney transplant or blood-filtering treatments called dialysis. The two main types of PKD are autosomal dominant PKD and autosomal recessive PKD.
PKD cysts are different from the usually harmless “simple” cysts that often form in the kidneys later in life. PKD cysts are more numerous and cause complications, such as high blood pressure, cysts in the liver, and problems with blood vessels in the brain and heart.
Although kidneys usually are the most severely affected organs, polycystic kidney disease can cause cysts to develop in your liver and elsewhere in your body. The disease causes a variety of serious complications.
A common complication of polycystic kidney disease is high blood pressure. Kidney failure is another common problem for people with polycystic kidney disease.
Polycystic kidney disease varies greatly in its severity, and some complications are preventable. Lifestyle changes and medical treatments may help reduce damage to your kidneys from complications, such as high blood pressure.