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Understanding the Difference Between ESRD and Polycystic Kidney Disease

Guest post by Jenny Hart

The kidneys’ main job is to filter excess fluids and toxins out of the blood. When there is a build-up of wastes and the kidneys aren’t able to cleanse the blood properly, they can become damaged and you may develop chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Kidney disease occurs in five stages, depending on how advanced it is. When you reach stage 5 kidney failure, it is also known as end stage renal disease (ESRD). There are also genetic variations, such as polycystic kidney disease (PKD). To understand the difference between ESRD and PKD, consider the following:

What is End Stage Renal Disease? When you reach kidney failure at stage 5 kidney disease, it is known as end stage renal disease. At this point, the kidneys are failing and require regular dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant in order to keep the body functioning properly. It’s common for people with kidney disease not to be aware of their symptoms until later stages. Some of the signs of ESRD include a buildup of waste in the blood (uremia), fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, lower back pain, and swelling in the hands, legs, eyes or lower back.

What is Polycystic Kidney Disease? Unlike ESRD, polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disorder that impacts the kidneys. PKD causes cysts to develop in the organs and makes them swell up, which over time could lead to kidney failure if untreated. PKD can be caused by mutations in various genes, but it is not entirely understood how these mutations come to be. If these unique genes are mutated to disrupt proper biological functions, you may have a high risk of developing PKD, as your body cells may produce too much waste material and cannot dispose of it correctly.

Types of Polycystic Kidney Disease There are three types of Polycystic Kidney Disease:

Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD) — This is one of the most common types of PKD, accounting for 90% of all cases. ADPKD typically occurs when a person inherits a genetic mutation from just one parent. Signs and symptoms of this variant typically don't show up until adulthood, but cysts in the kidney are often present from birth or childhood. Symptoms include stomach swelling, or swelling and pain in both sides of the body below your rib cage. This is often worse when you are lying down, especially if it's on just one side of your chest. Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD) — This variant occurs when a person inherits mutated genetic material from both parents who have or are carriers of PKD. The symptoms of ARPKD are typically more mild because the condition typically manifests later in life, and fewer cysts develop in the kidneys. Signs include high blood pressure, enlarged liver or spleen from fluid buildup, bladder infections, and abnormal heart rhythms. Acquired Cystic Kidney Disease (ACKD) — ACKD is a result of CKD, and unlike the other types of PKD, it is not inherited. For those living with kidney disease and end stage renal disease, this is the most common cause of polycystic kidney disease — as your risk of ACKD increases with the number of years you are on dialysis. Symptoms of ACKD include loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

If you think you have ESRD or PKD… Talk to your primary care physician or a nephrologist if you think you may be showing signs of end stage renal disease or polycystic kidney disease. He or she may be able to help you get screened for free, or find the right tools and resources to protect the health of your kidneys.

Jenny Hart is a contributing author on behalf of Jenny has been a writer for five years and covers a wide array of medical topics and themes.

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