Risks, slowdown, etc.

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a life-threatening genetic condition that occurs when cysts develop on your kidneys. Your kidneys can grow larger as the cysts grow, causing complications ranging from high blood pressure to kidney pain.

There is no cure for ADPKD and no way to completely prevent new cysts from appearing, which means it is a progressive disease. Kidney failure occurs in more than half of those affected before the age of 70, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Although ADPKD is a progressive disease, it is possible to slow the disease and extend kidney function.

Here’s what you need to know about ADPKD, including how it affects the body and how to slow it down.

Although it is an inherited condition, ADPKD is usually not diagnosed until adulthood. This is often when symptoms develop. Common symptoms include:

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is sometimes the first sign of ADPKD. Growing cysts can constrict blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to flow.

Urinary tract infections

Cysts can also affect urine flow, causing urine to stay in the body for a longer period of time. This in itself does not cause a urinary tract infection (UTI), but it does provide an opportunity for bacteria to multiply, which can lead to infection. If left untreated, UTIs can progress to cause bladder and kidney infections.

Kidney stones

Cysts can also block the tubes that help the kidneys filter waste and urine. If the kidneys cannot filter waste products properly, crystals can form inside them and cause kidney stones. Symptoms of a kidney stone include severe abdominal pain and vomiting.

kidney pain

Pain is another symptom of ADPKD. Cysts and enlarged kidneys can put pressure on tissues and other organs in your body. This can cause pain in the abdomen, side of the body, or back.

urine in the blood

Some people also see traces of blood in their urine. The blood may be red, pink or brown. This is sometimes due to a ruptured cyst or a ruptured blood vessel around a cyst. A urinary tract infection (UTI) can also cause blood in your urine.

Renal failure

Some people diagnosed with ADPKD end up losing some or all of their kidney function due to chronic kidney disease (CKD). This happens when the kidneys can no longer filter waste products from the blood.

Kidney failure refers to less than 15% of kidney function remaining, notes the Charity association for polycystic kidney disease. Treatment for kidney failure is dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Several imaging tests can help diagnose ADPKD, such as a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound. Your doctor will likely also schedule a kidney function test. These assess how well your kidneys are working.

However, there is no single test to diagnose CKD. Instead, your doctor might perform at least three tests over at least 90 days. Once you’ve been diagnosed with CKD, the next step is to determine the stage.

Doctors use your glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which measures the amount of fluid your kidneys filter per minute, to determine the stage of the disease.

Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease

Regardless of the stage of your chronic kidney disease, you can expect annual kidney function tests to monitor your kidney health. Your doctor may check kidney function more frequently if it progresses rapidly.

Although there is no cure, there are steps you can take to relieve symptoms, protect your kidneys, and slow the progression of ADPKD.


Flank, back and kidney pain can disrupt your life. To help manage the pain, your doctor may recommend aspirin or acetaminophen.

However, you should avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). These drugs can cause kidney problems.

Other medicine

If you are at risk of developing ADPKD rapidly, your doctor may also prescribe tolvaptan (Jynarque). This medication has been approved to help slow the decline in kidney function and the rate of growth of new cysts.

Control high blood pressure

Taking medications to lower your blood pressure and lifestyle changes also help delay the progression of the disease, thus prolonging kidney function. Lifestyle changes may include increasing physical activity, maintaining a moderate weight, eating a low sodium diet, and quitting smoking.

Quickly treat urinary tract infections

If left untreated, UTIs can progress to bladder or kidney infections. Also take steps to reduce the risk of UTIs. This includes drinking plenty of fluids, wiping back and forth, and going to the bathroom after sex.

To drink a lot of water

Drinking water also promotes kidney health by helping your kidneys eliminate waste. Drinking too little fluids or water can cause dehydration, which can lead to UTIs, kidney stones, and affect your overall kidney health. To aim 6 to 8 cups of liquid per day.

ADPKD is a chronic condition that affects kidney function and can eventually cause kidney failure. Although you can’t always prevent disease progression, there are steps you can take to protect your kidneys and slow the disease.

This includes avoiding medications that can damage your kidneys, treating high blood pressure and infections, and talking to your doctor about treatment options.

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