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Disease Profile

Polycystic kidney disease

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable


Other names (AKA)

PKD; Polycystic kidneys; ADPKD;


Congenital and Genetic Diseases; Kidney and Urinary Diseases


Polycystic kidney disease refers to a group of inherited kidney disorders characterized by the presence of multiple cysts in both kidneys. Normal kidney tissue is replaced by fluid-filled sacs that interfere with the their ability to filter waste products from the blood. The growth of cysts causes the kidneys to become enlarged and can lead to kidney failure. Cysts may also develop in other organs, particularly the liver. However, signs and symptom severity can vary greatly from person to person. Treatment is tailored to the individual based upon their signs and symptoms.[1]

The two major forms of polycystic kidney disease are distinguished by the usual age of onset and their pattern of inheritance:[1]

(1) Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common form that usually causes symptoms between the ages of 30 and 40; but they can begin earlier, even in childhood. ADPKD can be further divided into type 1 and type 2, depending on the underlying genetic cause.[1]

(2) Autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD) is a rare form that usually causes symptoms in infancy and early childhood and is often lethal early in life. Some people with ARPKD do not develop symptoms until later in childhood or even adulthood.[2]


Signs and symptoms vary greatly from person to person. But affected individuals typically develop multiple cysts in both kidneys, which impair their ability to filter waste products from the blood. Later in the disease, the cysts cause the kidneys to become enlarged and can lead to kidney failure. Cysts may also develop in other organs, particularly the liver.[1]

Frequent complications of polycystic kidney disease include dangerously high blood pressure (hypertension), severe pain in the back or sides, blood in the urine (hematuria), recurrent urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and heart valve abnormalities. People with this condition also have an increased risk an aortic aneurysm in the brain (an abnormal bulging of the large blood vessel at the base of the brain). Aneurysms can be life-threatening if they tear or rupture.[1]

This table lists symptoms that people with this disease may have. For most diseases, symptoms will vary from person to person. People with the same disease may not have all the symptoms listed. This information comes from a database called the Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) . The HPO collects information on symptoms that have been described in medical resources. The HPO is updated regularly. Use the HPO ID to access more in-depth information about a symptom.

Medical Terms Other Names
Learn More:
80%-99% of people have these symptoms
Decreased glomerular filtration rate
Elevated serum creatinine
Elevated creatinine
High blood creatinine level
Increased creatinine
Increased serum creatinine

[ more ]

Hepatic cysts
Liver cysts
Renal cyst
Kidney cyst
30%-79% of people have these symptoms
Abnormal urinary electrolyte concentration
Blood in urine
Stage 5 chronic kidney disease
5%-29% of people have these symptoms
Aortic root aneurysm
Bulge in wall of root of large artery that carries blood away from heart
Arachnoid cyst
Fluid-filled sac located in membrane surrounding brain or spinal cord
Dilatation of the cerebral artery
Enlarged kidney
Large kidneys
Mitral valve prolapse
Kidney stones
Pancreatic cysts
Polycystic liver disease
Recurrent urinary tract infections
Frequent urinary tract infections
Repeated bladder infections
Repeated urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections, recurrent

[ more ]

Reduced sperm motility
1%-4% of people have these symptoms
Cerebral berry aneurysm
Mitral regurgitation
Pituitary growth hormone cell adenoma
Percent of people who have these symptoms is not available through HPO
Autosomal dominant inheritance
Colonic diverticula
Polycystic kidney dysplasia
Renal insufficiency
Renal failure
Renal failure in adulthood

[ more ]



Support and advocacy groups can help you connect with other patients and families, and they can provide valuable services. Many develop patient-centered information and are the driving force behind research for better treatments and possible cures. They can direct you to research, resources, and services. Many organizations also have experts who serve as medical advisors or provide lists of doctors/clinics. Visit the group’s website or contact them to learn about the services they offer. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement by GARD.

Organizations Supporting this Disease

    Organizations Providing General Support

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      These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

      Where to Start

      • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
      • Genetics Home Reference (GHR) contains information on Polycystic kidney disease. This website is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.
      • The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NIDDK) conducts and supports research on a broad spectrum of diseases affecting public health. Click on the link to view information on this topic.

        In-Depth Information

        • GeneReviews provides current, expert-authored, peer-reviewed, full-text articles describing the application of genetic testing to the diagnosis, management, and genetic counseling of patients with specific inherited conditions.
        • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
        • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
        • Orphanet is a European reference portal for information on rare diseases and orphan drugs. Access to this database is free of charge.
        • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Polycystic kidney disease. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


          1. Polycystic kidney disease. Genetics Home Reference. May 2014; https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/polycystic-kidney-disease. Accessed 11/7/2016.
          2. Polycystic Kidney Disease. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). 2010; https://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/polycystic/. Accessed 12/8/2011.

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