Ultrasound is the most reliable, inexpensive and non-invasive way to diagnose PKD. If someone at risk for PKD is older than 40 years and has a normal ultrasound of the kidneys, he or she probably does not have PKD. Occasionally, a CT scan (computed tomography scan) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may detect smaller cysts that cannot be found by an ultrasound. MRI is used to measure and monitor volume and growth of kidneys and cysts.
In some situations, genetic testing might also be done. This involves a blood test that checks for abnormal genes that cause the disease. Genetic testing is not recommended for everyone. The test is costly, and it also fails to detect PKD in about 15% of people who have it. However, genetic testing can be useful when a person:
has an uncertain diagnosis based on imaging tests
has a family history of PKD and wants to donate a kidney
is younger than 30-years old with a family history of PKD and a negative ultrasound, and is planning to start a family
Does everyone with PKD develop kidney failure?
No. About 50 percent of people with PKD will have kidney failure by age 60, and about 60 percent will have kidney failure by age 70. People with kidney failure will need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Certain people have an increased risk of kidney failure including:
patients with high blood pressure
patients with protein or blood in their urine
women with high blood pressure who have had more than three pregnancies
How is PKD treated?
At present, there is no cure for PKD. However, a lot of research is being done. Recent studies suggest that drinking plain water throughout the day and avoiding caffeine in beverages can slow the growth of cysts. Research is also helping us understand the genetic basis of PKD.
Studies also suggest that some treatments may slow the rate of kidney disease in PKD, but further research is needed before these treatments can be used in patients. In the meantime, many supportive treatments can be done to control symptoms, help slow the growth of cysts, and help prevent or slow down the loss of kidney function in people with PKD. These include:
careful control of blood pressure
prompt treatment with antibiotics of a bladder or kidney infection
lots of fluid when blood in the urine is first noted
medication to control pain (talk to your doctor about which over-the-counter medicines are safe to take if you have kidney disease)
a healthy lifestyle with regard to smoking cessation, exercise, weight control and reduced salt intake
drinking lots of plain water throughout the day
avoiding caffeine in all beverages
Should people with PKD take a special diet?
At present, no specific diet is known to prevent cysts from developing in patients with PKD. Reducing salt intake helps control blood pressure in PKD patients who have high blood pressure. A diet low in fat and moderate in calories is recommended to maintain a healthy weight. Speak to your doctor or a dietitian about other changes to your diet, such as avoiding caffeine.
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