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Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic condition in which cysts form in the kidneys. Over time, the growth of these cysts can affect kidney function and lead to kidney failure.
UT Southwestern Medical Center has a dedicated PKD clinic staffed with four nephrologists who specialize in PKD. No other program in Texas can meet the wide-ranging, unique needs of PKD patients.
Our comprehensive PKD program includes dedicated specialists in nephrology, hepatology, cardiology, solid organ transplant, pain, neurology, neurosurgery, genetics, and nutrition.
Our doctors also work closely with nephrologists across the state who refer PKD patients for specialized care. We welcome referrals and the opportunity to co-manage PKD patients with our physician partners.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Many patients have polycystic kidney disease for years without knowing it. Some patients may not develop PKD symptoms until they are at least 30 years old.
Symptoms might include:
- Back and/or side pain
- Blood in the urine
- High blood pressure
- Increase in the size of the abdomen
- Reduced kidney function
In most cases, PKD is inherited from a parent. If you have a parent or sibling with PKD, talk to your doctor about screening and when it may be appropriate for you.
If you are experiencing symptoms of PKD or have a relative with the disease, your primary care physician may perform an ultrasound or CT scan to visualize your kidneys. If your doctor suspects PKD, we’d like to see you as soon as possible.
When you visit us at UT Southwestern, we will confirm your diagnosis. Our specially trained radiologists can use MRI to measure kidney and cyst volume and monitor kidney and cyst growth. This serves as a way to track the progression of PKD and helps us chart a management or treatment plan for you.
When treatment is needed, our clinic and specialists help patients manage their symptoms and complications as early as possible.
Our customized, tailored approach to PKD management may include:
- Genetic counseling
- Pain management
- Surgical treatment options, including kidney transplant
- Kidney stone risk management
- Advanced imaging
- Nutrition and lifestyle counseling
- Blood pressure management
- Chronic kidney disease management
PKD can also affect other parts of the body outside of the kidney. We have developed a network of subspecialists with expertise in PKD.
For example, many PKD patients experience constant or severe pain caused by the enlarged kidney size. UT Southwestern’s pain specialists can evaluate the exact cause of the pain and create a custom pain management plan for each patient.
In addition to kidney cysts, PKD patients often have liver cysts. While liver cysts do not always lead to liver failure, they can cause discomfort. Our liver specialists, called hepatologists, can provide guidance on how best to manage symptomatic liver cyst disease.
When PKD advances to the point of kidney failure, dialysis or transplant may be the only remaining options. Fortunately, our nationally recognized Kidney Transplant Program has performed more than 400 kidney transplants since 2007, resulting in exceptional patient outcomes. The PKD clinic works closely with the UT Southwestern Kidney Transplant Program to arrange for timely referrals.
In addition to our unmatched ability to provide comprehensive care to PKD patients, UT Southwestern has a robust PKD research program designed to develop future treatments for PKD.
We have a group of scientists dedicated to understanding how kidney cysts form and how to slow their growth. You can explore new discoveries made at UT Southwestern by following the work of our PKD research scientists:
In addition, we have established a PKD registry for patients who wish to donate small samples of blood and urine for future studies aimed at identifying biomarkers for PKD progression and response to potential treatments.
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