There are numerous complications associated with polycystic kidney disease including:

  • High blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is a common complication of polycystic kidney disease. Untreated, high blood pressure can cause further damage to your kidneys and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Loss of kidney function. Progressive loss of kidney function is one of the most serious complications of polycystic kidney disease. Nearly half of those with the disease have kidney failure by age 60. If you have high blood pressure or blood or protein in your urine, you have a greater risk of kidney failure.

    Polycystic kidney disease causes your kidneys to gradually lose their ability to eliminate wastes from your blood and maintain your body's balance of fluids and chemicals. As the cysts enlarge, they produce pressure and promote scarring in the normal, unaffected areas of your kidneys. These effects result in high blood pressure and interfere with the ability of your kidneys to keep wastes from building to toxic levels, a condition called uremia. As the disease worsens, end-stage kidney (renal) failure may result. When end-stage renal failure occurs, you'll need ongoing kidney dialysis or a transplant to prolong your life.

  • Pregnancy complications. Pregnancy is successful for most women with polycystic kidney disease. In some cases, however, women may develop a life-threatening disorder called preeclampsia. Those most at risk are women who have high blood pressure before they become pregnant.
  • Growth of cysts in the liver. The likelihood of developing liver cysts for someone with polycystic kidney disease increases with age. While both men and women develop cysts, women often develop larger cysts. Cyst growth may be aided by female hormones.
  • Development of an aneurysm in the brain. Localized enlargement of an artery in your brain can cause bleeding (hemorrhage) if it ruptures. People with polycystic kidney disease have a higher risk of aneurysm, especially those younger than age 50. The risk is higher if you have a family history of aneurysm or if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • Heart valve abnormalities. As many as one-quarter of adults with polycystic kidney disease develop mitral valve prolapse. When this happens, the valve no longer closes properly, which allows blood to leak backward.
  • Colon problems. Weaknesses and pouches or sacs in the wall of the colon (diverticulosis) may develop in people with polycystic kidney disease.
  • Chronic pain. Pain is a common symptom for people with polycystic kidney disease. It often occurs in your side or back. The pain can also be associated with a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone.
Nov. 18, 2011