The primary role of the kidneys is to filter the blood that passes through the heart, but it is also partly responsible for the body’s fluid balance, pH regulation, and hormone production. They are powerful chemical factories that maintain blood pressure and control the metabolism and calcium. If the kidneys fail to function properly, your body cannot filter blood, and this can lead to weakness, swelling, and seizures.
Unfortunately, some people are born with a genetic condition that causes cysts to grow in the kidneys. This is called polycystic kidney disease.
Causes and Types
Among people with PKD, it has been shown that the mutation can be inherited from family members, but there are rare cases where there is a spontaneous mutation. It is a common genetic disorder and most doctors in Singapore classify the disease into two types: autosomal recessive PKD and autosomal dominant PKD.
The former appears among young patients, sometimes after birth. Both parents of the child are carriers of the abnormal gene. The latter shows signs by the time the person is 30 years or older, although some children also develop this type of PKD. Only one parent has to have a copy of the mutated gene but the chances of inheriting it is higher than the other type. It is also the most common form of PKD.
Symptoms and Complications
PKD makes the kidneys appear larger than normal. The cysts are filled with fluids and grow inside the kidneys, resulting in tissue damage. Unfortunately, there are no early warning signs of the problem until the cysts become large. When this happens, the person will have higher blood pressure and will feel pain in the back or side.
Other signs also include blood in the urine, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, increase in the size of the abdomen, and headache. If you have relatives who have PKD, it’s a good idea to undergo a screening, because it can lead to hypertension, loss of kidney function, brain aneurysm, heart abnormalities, liver cysts, colon problems, chronic pain, and complications during pregnancy.
Lifestyle and Treatment
There is no way to prevent PKD if it runs in your family, but you can prepare through early screening and switching to a healthier lifestyle. You should monitor both your blood pressure and blood sugar level. It’s important that you maintain a healthy weight by sticking to a low-fat and low-salt diet. If you see any of the symptoms listed above, ask your doctor for genetic tests and imaging tests such as ultrasound and MRI to determine if there are kidney cysts.
There is no cure for PKD but the doctors will want to treat symptoms to prevent complications. You will be treated separately for high blood pressure, kidney and bladder infections, aneurysm, and chronic pain. You might also want to ask about clinical trials in Singapore that help patients with PKD.