Overview

About polycystic kidney disease

Polycystic kidney disease, which starts at birth, causes cysts (fluid-filled sacs) to grow on the kidneys. These cysts cause the kidney to enlarge and function less effectively over a lifetime.

Without treatment to slow its progression, polycystic kidney disease could lead to the following complications:

  • Cysts growing in other places in the body, such as the liver

  • Kidney failure

  • High blood pressure, which can cause more damage to the kidney

Meet our team

Our kidney care providers

Polycystic kidney disease looks different for everyone. At the UW Health Polycystic Kidney Disease Clinic, our specialists can develop personalized treatment plans to meet your needs.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Identifying the symptoms

Most people with polycystic kidney disease don’t experience symptoms until early adulthood, usually by the time they are 30 or 40 years old. About half of people with polycystic kidney disease show signs before they are 50 years old.

When symptoms do appear, the most common ones include the following:

  • High blood pressure

  • Blood or protein in the urine

  • An increase in the size of your abdomen caused by an enlarged kidney

  • Pain in your back or side

  • Abnormal kidney function detected on blood tests

Treatment

Treating polycystic kidney disease

While there is no cure for polycystic kidney disease, you can take steps to manage it and slow disease progression. At the UW Health Polycystic Kidney Disease Clinic, we’ll give you the tools you need to manage your kidney health through individualized treatment plans.

In most cases, managing polycystic kidney disease involves the following:

  • Medications such as Tolvaptan, the only FDA-approved drug treatment to slow kidney function decline in adults

  • Elevated blood pressure management

  • Lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet and exercise routines

  • Regular kidney volume measurements to track disease progression

  • Opportunities to enroll in clinical trials to slow polycystic kidney disease progression

If left untreated, polycystic kidney disease can cause kidney failure, which means the kidneys cannot perform their usual functions, such as cleaning waste and toxins from the blood. Kidney failure requires specific treatments. These include:

A procedure that helps the kidneys remove waste and toxins from the blood. By 60 years old, most people with polycystic kidney disease start dialysis.

UW Health Dialysis Center

Location

Kidney care near you

The UW Health Polycystic Kidney Disease Clinic in Madison provides personalized care for polycystic kidney disease. Our specialists help you manage your condition and understand when dialysis and transplantation are needed.

    Resources

    Learn more

    Use the following resources to learn more about polycystic kidney disease, including diagnosis, treatment and management: