Polycystic Kidney Disease Onset Delayed With Healthy Lifestyle

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
Polycystic Kidney Disease Onset Delayed With Healthy Lifestyle

When Keith Reynolds was in high school and getting yearly sports physicals, doctors always commented on his high blood pressure. It was unusual in someone so young.

Reynolds suspected his high numbers were due to polycystic kidney disease, a malady that killed his grandmother, led to a kidney transplant for his aunt and will likely lead to dialysis and transplant for his mom. He was subsequently diagnosed with PKD at age 25, well after he had graduated and tucked away his letter sweater.

With PKD, cysts grow in the kidneys and can also grow in the liver and small intestine. About 8 percent of people with PKD are also susceptible to brain aneurysms. Its symptoms can include hip/leg pain, abdominal discomfort, blood and protein in the urine, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and progressive kidney dysfunction, says Beaumont nephrologist Gampala Harish Reddy, M.D.

"Some people will need dialysis or kidney transplantation," says Dr. Reddy.

The disease comes in two forms: autosomal recessive, a rare disorder that often causes death in the first month of life; and autosomal dominant, one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases.


People with the autosomal dominant type are usually diagnosed by age 30. They have a 50 percent chance of passing it along to their children. Reynolds has this type.

Diagnosis of PKD is generally done using an ultrasound. While it is possible to obtain a diagnosis via genetic testing, it can be inaccurate and costly, and patients may not want to undergo it due to insurance discrimination for a pre-existing condition.

"While there is no cure, people who are susceptible due to family history can delay the onset with a healthy lifestyle," says Dr. Reddy. "That means no smoking or caffeine, keeping cholesterol under control, adopting an exercise regimen and following a healthy diet.

"People with PKD need to have an annual physical exam, which should include a measurement of blood pressure and urinalysis."

There is no cure for PKD, but drugs are being researched that may slow or stop the growth of the cysts. Taking a low dose of vitamin C can also help, says Dr. Reddy.

Now 32, Reynolds manages his disease with blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications and a healthy lifestyle.

He and his wife struggled with the decision to have children because of the 50-50 chance of passing on Reynolds' disease, but six months ago had a baby girl, Lillian.