Treating Polycystic Kidney Disease

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7 Tips for Keeping Kidneys Healthy With Polycystic Kidney Disease

  • Woman walking
    You have a say in your kidney health.
    Polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, is the fourth leading cause of kidney failure, responsible for 5% of cases. PKD causes cysts to build up in the kidneys, crowding the space and affecting kidney function. PKD is a genetic condition, but people who inherit it can still influence their kidney health. Make sure you know the steps to take to stay healthy with polycystic kidney disease, from getting hydrated to watching out for kidney stones to re-thinking old habits.
  • Blood pressure gauge in Doctors surgery
    1. Keep an eye on your blood pressure.
    High blood pressure (hypertension) can speed up the progression of PKD, causing more kidney damage sooner. It’s estimated that up to 70% of people with PKD have high blood pressure, too. Get your blood pressure checked regularly and consider buying a cuff to use at home. Record your readings and share them with your doctor. Your doctor can help with you with blood pressure management. Effective medications are available, and healthy lifestyle changes make a difference.
  • drinking bottle of water
    2. Stay hydrated.
    How much water do you need to stay hydrated? For most people, drinking eight glasses of water a day is enough. An easy way to check your hydration is to keep an eye on the color of your urine. If it’s light yellow or clear, you’re hydrated. If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more water. If you see blood in your urine, tell your doctor, even if it lasts less than a day.
  • woman in public bathroom
    3. Address infections immediately.
    At the first sign of a urinary tract infection, or UTI, talk with your doctor so treatment can begin. A UTI is caused by bacteria in the kidney, kidney cysts, or bladder. The longer you delay treatment, the farther the infection can spread in your urinary tract. The main symptoms of a UTI are pain or burning when you urinate or feeling an urgent need to go, but little urine is produced. Doctors typically treat UTIs with antibiotics.
  • man-with-back-pain-sitting-up-in-bed
    4. Watch out for kidney stones.
    Approximately 20 to 30% of people with PKD develop kidney stones. Either cysts in the kidneys block the filtering tubes or the level of urine citrate, an acid produced by the body that helps prevent kidney stones, gets too low. If you have severe pain in your back, side, or groin, you may have a kidney stone. Talk with your doctor right away. Smaller kidney stones may pass in urine, and larger ones may need to be broken down through non-invasive ultrasound first.
  • Epsom salt
    5. Limit salt.
    Cutting back on salt can help you manage your blood pressure. Don’t add salt to meals you cook or eat. Try flavorful substitutes such as lemon juice, fresh herbs, garlic, or cumin. Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables as often as you can over canned vegetables and soups that tend to contain a lot of salt. Processed meats, frozen meals, and pickled foods also tend to have a lot of salt, so they are best avoided, too.
  • cigarette-stubs-in-ashtray
    6. Re-think smoking and drinking habits.
    Like high blood pressure, smoking can speed up the progression of PKD. Quitting isn’t easy but having PKD gives you a great reason. Use it to motivate yourself. Medications for smoking cessation and nicotine replacement therapy can take the edge off. When it comes to alcohol, you may want to limit your consumption to one drink a day or less. Be honest with your doctor about your smoking and drinking habits and ask for the help you need.
  • woman-lifting-exercise-ball-over-head
    7. Put fitness first.
    Exercising regularly can help you control your weight—and your blood pressure. It can also make everyday tasks easier, boost your energy level, and help you sleep better. Consider brisk walking, swimming, or dancing. Be aware that some types of exercise such as contact sports can damage the kidneys. Talk to your doctor before you begin a new exercise program. It’s especially important to stay hydrated when you exercise to balance out the fluids you lose through sweat.
Staying Healthy With Polycystic Kidney Disease | Kidney Disease

About The Author

Evelyn Creekmore has more than 15 years of experience writing online educational health content, including nearly 10 years full-time at WebMD, where she was the director of brand content. She holds an MPH in Applied Public Health Informatics from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and an MA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
  1. Polycystic Kidney Disease. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/polycystic
  2. What are the symptoms? PKD Foundation. https://pkdcure.org/what-is-pkd/adpkd/what-are-the-symptoms/Diet and Lifestyle. Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity. https://www.pkdcharity.org.uk/about-adpkd/living-with-adpkd/diet-and-lifestyleWater: How much should you drink every day? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
  3. Nutrition. PKD Foundation. https://pkdcure.org/living-with-pkd/nutrition/
  4. Polycystic Kidney Disease. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.nkfm.org/node/141
  5. Staying Fit With Kidney
    Disease. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/stayfit
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Dec 24
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