Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a chronic inherited condition where cysts grow on the kidneys. This form of polycystic kidney disease affects about 1 in every 400 to 1,000 people.

It can affect several people in a family, and it doesn’t skip generations. If you have the disease, there’s a 50 percent chance that children will too.

ADPKD doesn’t typically have symptoms in its early stage. The disease becomes more apparent, however, as growing cysts begin to affect kidney function.

Here are six of the most common symptoms of ADPKD.

Pain is common with ADPKD. It occurs as cysts grow in size and increase in number. The kidneys can enlarge, too, putting pressure on other organs and tissues.

You might feel kidney pain in your side, abdomen, or back. It can be moderate or intense depending on the severity of your condition.

Over-the-counter pain medication can help ease pain, but it’s best to talk with your doctor before managing kidney pain with medication.

Certain medications aren’t recommended, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), because they can cause kidney issues. These drugs include ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the safest option for managing kidney pain.

UTIs occur when bacteria in the urinary tract cause an infection. If left untreated, an infection can spread to the bladder and the kidneys.

UTIs develop when cysts block and disrupt the typical flow of urine, causing urine to remain in the bladder longer. Bacteria can then multiply and cause an infection in the urinary tract.

Symptoms of a UTI can include:

  • painful urination
  • frequent urination
  • back or flank pain

Your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.

ADPKD can put you at risk of kidney stones. These occur in about 20 to 30 percent of people living with polycystic kidney disease.

Kidney stones are hard deposits that develop in the kidneys. Symptoms can include severe abdominal pain and vomiting. This occurs when cysts block the tubes that help your kidneys filter out waste.

Crystals can form when urine and waste remain in the kidneys for too long, leading to a kidney stone. Kidney stones often pass on their own, but your doctor can prescribe medication to ease discomfort until a stone passes.

Blood in your urine is another symptom of ADPKD. The blood can appear pink, red, or brown, but it’s not always visible to the naked eye. Sometimes, it’s only detectable under a microscope.

Blood in the urine can occur from a ruptured cyst, or from a ruptured blood vessel around the cyst.

Traces of blood can also indicate a UTI or kidney stone. Notify your doctor if you see blood in your urine.

High blood pressure is another symptom of ADPKD. Sometimes, it’s the first sign of this condition.

The exact connection between kidney cysts and high blood pressure isn’t fully understood. It’s likely due to cysts constricting blood vessels and making it harder for blood to flow properly.

Treatment includes medication to lower blood pressure as well as lifestyle changes. These changes can include:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • increasing physical activity
  • eating a low sodium diet

Some people with ADPKD have reported experiencing fatigue, weakness, or a general sense of discomfort during the early stages of the condition or before their diagnosis.

It’s estimated that more than half of people with ADPKD have kidney failure by age 70. This is when the kidneys no longer function properly.

There’s no current cure for this condition, but a medication known as tolvaptan (Jynarque) can help delay kidney failure in people with a rapidly progressing form of the disease.

Once kidney failure occurs, treatment involves dialysis and sometimes a kidney transplant.

You can take other steps to protect your kidneys and delay loss of kidney function. These steps include:

  • managing your blood pressure
  • eating a balanced, nutritious diet
  • reducing your alcohol intake
  • avoiding smoking
  • avoiding medications that affect kidney health, such as NSAIDs

Another complication is the risk of preeclampsia if you’re pregnant and have high blood pressure due to ADPKD. Also, cysts might develop on other organs like the liver and pancreas. ADPKD can also lead to brain aneurysms and heart valve problems in some people.

Although an inherited condition, ADPKD isn’t typically diagnosed until adulthood. Talk with a healthcare professional if you have symptoms like:

  • high blood pressure
  • blood in the urine
  • flank or back pain
  • repeated UTI or kidney infections

Your doctor can perform kidney function and imaging tests such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, to look for cysts on your kidneys. Based on the results, they can recommend a treatment to reduce discomfort and complications.

ADPKD is a chronic condition. Recognizing its symptoms and getting an early diagnosis can help you avoid complications.

While kidney failure can occur in more than half of people with ADPKD, protecting your kidneys through medication and lifestyle changes can help slow disease progression.