A cyst is a fluid-filled sac. There are two types of kidney cysts. The first, polycystic kidney disease (PKD), runs in families and the cysts take the place of the normal tissue. They enlarge the kidneys and make them work poorly, leading to kidney failure. The second, acquired cystic kidney disease (ACKD) usually happens in people on dialysis. Unlike PKD, the kidneys are normal sized, and cysts do not form in other parts of the body. ACKD often has no symptoms and in most cases the cysts are harmless and do not need treatment.

Symptoms of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) include:
  • Pain in the back and lower sides
  • Headaches
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Blood in the urine

When PKD causes kidneys to fail – which usually happens after many years – people need dialysis or kidney transplantation. About half of people with the most common type of PKD end up with kidney failure. PKD also causes cysts in other parts of the body, such as the liver. 


Doctors diagnose PKD with imaging tests and family history. 


Treatments include medications, and, when people with PKD develop kidney failure, dialysis or kidney transplants.

Why seek treatment at Ohio State

Ohio State is recognized by U.S.News & World Report as one of the nation's best hospitals for urology and nephrology. Schedule an appointment with Ohio State's urology and kidney experts.

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