The kidney plays a crucial role in maintaining our body’s overall health as it is responsible for filtering waste from the bloodstream. When functioning properly, the kidneys help keep our bodies in a balanced and healthy state. Unfortunately, some individuals suffer from conditions affecting their kidneys, preventing them from working effectively.
Polycystic kidney disease is a type of kidney disorder that can either be inherited or acquired. There are two forms of inherited polycystic kidney disease: autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive. Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease is the more prevalent type and is often referred to as adult polycystic kidney disease because symptoms typically emerge between the ages of 30 and 40. On the other hand, autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease is less common, with symptoms appearing at a younger age and sometimes even at birth. Acquired polycystic kidney disease, meanwhile, affects individuals who already suffer from kidney conditions such as renal failure or those who have undergone repeated dialysis treatments.
The most common symptom experienced by individuals with polycystic kidney disease is pain in the abdomen, sides, or back. Almost all patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease exhibit this symptom. Additionally, patients may experience tenderness in these same areas.
It’s important to note that tenderness, unlike pain, is only felt when touched. There are several potential causes for the pain experienced in polycystic kidney disease. One possibility is that a cyst on the kidney is enlarging, which can lead to discomfort. Additionally, pain may arise if one or more cysts begin to bleed. If an individual starts to experience a dull, aching sensation accompanied by a feeling of heaviness in their abdomen, this could be an indicator of a polycystic liver.
Presence of Blood in Urine
Bleeding in the kidneys is a common symptom of polycystic kidney disease, affecting around two-thirds of patients. When cysts within the kidneys begin to bleed, the blood can either be confined to the cysts themselves or appear in the urine, a condition known as hematuria. Typically, this symptom is self-limiting, meaning it will likely resolve on its own within a week. Individuals with polycystic kidney disease are more susceptible to kidney trauma, and even mild injuries can lead to internal or external bleeding. Internal bleeding, in particular, can be quite painful for the patient.
Increased Frequency of Urination
Individuals suffering from polycystic kidney disease may experience a heightened need to visit the restroom more frequently than usual. Typically, a person will expel approximately seven cups of urine each day. However, if an individual begins to excrete more urine than this, the condition is referred to as polyuria. It can be easy for some to dismiss this symptom, attributing it to an increased water intake. However, unless there is a significant rise in fluid consumption or the individual is pregnant, frequent urination is not considered normal. In such cases, it is crucial for the person to consult with their healthcare provider to determine the root medical cause of this issue.
Developing Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be caused by various bacteria, but the most prevalent culprit is Escherichia coli. Common symptoms of UTIs include a persistent urge to urinate more frequently than usual, as well as urine that appears cloudy or bloody in color. Additionally, the odor of the urine may change. Individuals suffering from UTIs often experience pain or a burning sensation during urination, along with feelings of nausea and an increased desire to vomit. Muscle and abdominal pain are also typical indicators of urinary tract infections.
Formation of Kidney Stones
Urine stasis and potential infections can lead to the formation of crystalline material, which may develop into a hard kidney stone. Nearly one-third of patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) experience kidney stones, with those experiencing pain and blood in their urine being particularly susceptible. In ADPKD, there is typically a decrease in citrate levels in the urine, causing the stones to be different from those found in the general population—typically, uric acid stones form. To determine whether a person has a kidney stone, an ultrasound is usually performed. However, diagnosing kidney stones in patients with polycystic kidney disease can be challenging due to the presence of large cysts, which can make it difficult to establish a clear diagnosis.
Suffering from Headaches
Individuals with polycystic kidney disease often experience headaches, which can be attributed to a hidden increase in blood pressure known as “hypertension.” This elevated blood pressure is a common indicator that doctors look for when suspecting polycystic kidney disease. The hypertension in this case is considered secondary, as it is caused by the kidney disease itself. Secondary hypertension tends to progress more quickly than typical hypertension and can lead to a severe condition like kidney failure. Therefore, it is essential to address hypertension alongside the treatment of polycystic kidney disease in order to effectively manage this condition.
Feeling Fluttering or Pounding Sensations in the Chest
Approximately 25% of individuals with polycystic kidney disease may experience sensations of fluttering or pounding in their chest. This particular symptom is often caused by a condition known as a “floppy valve” in the heart, which means that one of the heart’s valves is not functioning properly, and its flaps have become loose and unable to close tightly, sealing the space between the atrium and the ventricle. This issue with the valve can also result in chest pain for the patient. The sensation of fluttering may be the first noticeable sign of polycystic kidney disease for some individuals. However, it is important to note that these sensations are typically self-limiting and tend to resolve on their own.
Noticeable Skin Changes
Individuals with polycystic kidney disease may also notice changes in their skin, such as becoming paler and less vibrant. They may find that their skin bruises more easily and is prone to bleeding. Additionally, their nails might develop an abnormal shape. A common symptom is experiencing persistent itchiness, which can lead to a strong urge to scratch the affected areas. This itchiness can be explained by the kidneys’ primary function of filtering waste from the bloodstream. When the kidneys are not working properly, waste material accumulates and can cause significant discomfort in the form of itching.
Like many chronic illnesses, polycystic kidney disease can lead to extreme fatigue that goes beyond the normal tiredness we all occasionally experience. Sufferers may feel utterly exhausted even without engaging in strenuous physical activity or exercise. Chronic diseases, coupled with infections, can deplete the body’s energy reserves, resulting in constant weariness. This is because the kidneys play a crucial role in producing a hormone that aids in the formation of red blood cells, which are responsible for delivering oxygen to various tissues throughout the body. When an individual has insufficient red blood cells, they are likely to experience ongoing fatigue and lethargy, further impacting their daily life and overall well-being.
Struggling with Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and a heightened urge to vomit are common symptoms of polycystic kidney disease and can be attributed to the buildup of irritating waste materials and potential urinary tract infections caused by E. coli or other organisms. A primary culprit is uremia, a toxic byproduct of protein metabolism that accumulates in the blood and can trigger a strong vomiting reflex in patients. If uremia levels within the body increase beyond a certain threshold, it may even prove fatal. As a public health journalist, it’s crucial to be aware of these symptoms and their underlying causes in order to provide accurate medical information and health advice to readers.
Want to talk to a Doctor online?
Whether you have concerns about symptoms discussed in this article or your general health, trained Doctors have the answers!